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Arkansas’ drug director steps down, joins partnership aimed at fighting opioid addiction

by Michael R. Wickline | July 30, 2022 at 3:21 a.m.
Arkansas State Drug Director Kirk Lane addresses the Opioid Prevention Education Summit at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs in this 2019 file photo.

Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane will start work Aug. 22 as director of the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership that has been formed by the Association of Arkansas Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League, association Executive Director Chris Villines said Friday.

He said Lane will be paid a salary of $150,000 a year as the partnership's director.

On Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Lane's resignation as Arkansas' drug director, effective Aug. 21. Lane has served as the state's drug director since August 2017.

Lane is paid a salary of $134,855 a year as the state's drug director, according to the Arkansas Transparency website.

The partnership between the Arkansas Municipal League and the Association of Arkansas Counties represents an unprecedented united front between the representatives of local government, the association and the municipal league said Friday in a joint written statement.

"Especially exciting is the fact that Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane has decided to direct this partnership as we move forward," the association and the league said.

"We expect to receive settlement funds this year, and when they come in, we must have a plan," the Association of Arkansas Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League said in their joint written statement. "Every dollar needs a name and a wise and sound commitment to fight opioid addiction in Arkansas."

Hiring Lane now is critically important to building this plan, and Lane has a proven track record and experience that will prove invaluable in managing what will likely be a multi-year stream of settlement funds, according to the association and the municipal league.

"This is not a situation of Kirk Lane leaving his passion, it is simply a re-engagement from a different perspective and our local governments in Arkansas are going to be thrilled with his leadership and vision," the association and the municipal league said in their joint statement.

Since 2018, Arkansas counties and cities have been united in litigation and purpose, seeking compensation from opioid companies to fund solutions to the Arkansas opioid epidemic, and the coalition has now turned its attention to the most important goal of effectively evaluating and implementing programs and strategies to abate the epidemic, according to the association and the municipal league.

Hutchinson said Wednesday in a news release issued by the state Department of Human Services that, "In the five years Kirk has led the fight against substance abuse [as the state's drug director], Arkansans know more about the issue and are better equipped to battle it in the public arena and when it becomes personal."

"Thousands of Arkansans have survived an opioid overdose because of Kirk's commitment to put Narcan in the hands of first responders," he said.

Lane said in his resignation letter dated July 22 to Hutchinson that serving as the state's drug director opened his eyes to the serious issues that substance use disorder creates, and how it has entrenched itself in everything we do.

"Most importantly, it has made me more determined to get in front of it to defeat it," he wrote.

Lane said he will oversee opioid settlement dollars with the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership and, "I hope to work in collaboration with the state of Arkansas to fill in the gaps and sustain programs that are evidence based to change the direction of the trends."

Department of Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie credited Lane with coordinating the statewide effort to prevent drug overdoses, treat substance misuse and provide resources for Arkansans battling drug problems to find and maintain recovery.

Prior to becoming the state's drug director in August 2017, Lane had been Benton's police chief since 2009.

Before that, he had spent more than 20 years with the Pulaski County sheriff's office. He began working for the sheriff's office in 1987, rising through the ranks to eventually become a captain in 2000, according to his resume.

During his time at the Pulaski County sheriff's office, Lane and a fellow law enforcement official sued a filmmaker for defamation over a 1996 documentary that accused them and other law enforcement officials of killing two Saline County teenagers in 1987 and covering it up.

The two teens were found dead on railroad tracks, and although their deaths were initially ruled accidental, a Saline County grand jury changed that ruling to probable homicide. No arrests have been made in the case, and it remains unsolved.

A federal jury ruled against the filmmaker in 1999 and awarded Lane and the other law enforcement official more than half a million dollars, according to media reports.

Information for this article was contributed by Ryan Tarinelli of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Print Headline: State drug official steps down to lead addiction partnership


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