Research / Health & Human Services

Issue Brief | October 2018

The Growth of Synthetic Opioids in the South

Roger Moore, Policy Analyst

Download the full report (PDF)

The drug epidemic, driven in large part by the ongoing opioid crisis, continues to ravage tens of thousands of families and communities across the United States. The latest provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in September 2018, estimated that more than 71,500 drug overdose deaths occurred nationally between January 2017–January 2018, an increase of 6.6 percent during the same period the previous year, and 31.4 percent higher compared to January 2015– January 2016.1 In the Southern region, drug overdoses were responsible for more than 24,000 deaths in 2017, approximately one-third of the national total.

This SLC Issue Brief reviews the rise of dangerous synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, and their evolving role within the broader opioid crisis afflicting the United States. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the popularity of fentanyl and related synthetic opioids will remain unchallenged for the next several years, making it crucial for state and local leaders to understand the extent of the crisis and identify potential solutions for its mitigation.

Policy Analysis | September 2018

Poverty Statistics for Southern States

Roger Moore, Policy Analyst

Poverty is a complex and multifaceted issue, the result of socioeconomic factors often connected to history, geography and race. Studies consistently show that poverty limits access to education, nutritious foods, professional opportunities and safe, prosperous neighborhoods, all of which are critical for sustaining long and healthy livelihoods. For state and local governments, poverty can exacerbate crime, necessitate increased spending on healthcare and social safety nets, and adversely affect economic growth for decades.
According to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau in September 2018,* 42.5 million people lived in poverty in 2017, equivalent to 13.4 percent of the entire population that year. Among all groups, those identifying as American Indian and Alaska Native experienced the highest poverty rates at 25.4 percent, followed by individuals who identified as black or African American at 23.0 percent and Hispanic or Latino at 19.4 percent. Meanwhile, individuals who identified as white or Asian had the lowest poverty rates in 2017, both at 11.1 percent.

Continue Reading

Policy Analysis | August 2018

Medical Marijuana Laws in Southern States

Anne Roberts Brody, Policy Analyst

Of the 15 states comprising the Southern Legislative Conference, five (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia) have laws establishing comprehensive medical marijuana programs.* Of those, only Florida’s medical marijuana program is fully operational. Programs in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia are still in the developmental phases.

Within the public policy community, a consensus has emerged on what constitutes a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Such programs are characterized by four key criteria:

  1. Access to medical marijuana (often through a dispensary or home grow operation)
  2. Patient registry and/or other identification systems
  3. Protection from criminal prosecution
  4. Allow for a variety of medical marijuana forms (oils, tinctures, sprays, chewables, etc.)

Access to medical marijuana that meets established quality standards is an essential component of state medical marijuana laws. All five Southern states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws have established a framework for licensing dispensaries. While some states outside the region allow qualified patients and/or designated caregivers to grow limited amounts of marijuana, within the Southern region, only Oklahoma allows licensed patients to grow marijuana. Oklahoma State Question 788, approved by voters on June 26, 2018, authorizes licensed patients to legally possess six mature or seedling marijuana plants.

Continue Reading
2018-2019 Chair

Katrina Shealy

South Carolina

Representative Fredrick Love, Arkansas
2018-2019 Vice Chair

Fredrick J. Love


Immediate Past Chair

(Former) Senator
Doug Overbey


Roger Moore
Committee Liaison

Roger Moore
Policy Analyst

Among states’ most pressing concerns are ensuring the public’s general welfare and protection, with both areas constituting increasing shares of state budgets. States have been taking the lead in health policy, welfare reform and child care, and have maintained their predominant role in the areas of public safety, corrections and sentencing. The Human Services & Public Safety Committee has a broad agenda which most typically addresses the challenges states face in the areas of human services and corrections, and policies and programs utilized to meet them. The Committee has undertaken assessments of Medicaid and reform; nursing shortages; long-term healthcare; and such corrections issues as criminal justice DNA statutes; the aging inmate population; female offenders; mental health parity in prisons, and prison staffing patterns in Southern states.

More SLC Research into Health & Human Services

Policy Analysis | August 2018

Suicide Rates in the South

Comparative Data Report | July 2018


SLC Regional Resource | May 2018

Opioids and Organ Donations: A Tale of Two Crises

SLC Special Series Report | December 2017

Long-Term Care in the South (Part II)

Comparative Data Report | July 2017


Policy Analysis | April 2017

Cross-State Health Insurance Policies

SLC Special Series Report | January 2017

Long-Term Care in the South (Part 1)

Comparative Data Report | June 2016


SLC Regional Resource | May 2016

Spread of Zika: Impact on Southern States

SLC Regional Resource | April 2015

Vapor Rising: E-Cigarettes in the SLC States

Webinar | October 2014

Food Safety Modernization Act

Comparative Data Report | August 2014


SLC Regional Resource | March 2014

A Special Condition: Medical Marijuana in SLC States

Comparative Data Report | July 2013


Comparative Data Report | July 2012


Policy Analysis | September 2011

Prospective Changes in Long-Term Care Policies

Policy Analysis | May 2011

A Prescription Drug Epidemic

Comparative Data Report | March 2011


SLC Regional Resource | July 2010

Meth: Resurgence in the South

Policy Analysis | January 2010

Which SLC states have drug recycling programs?

SLC Regional Resource | January 2010

Autism and Schools

Issue Alert | January 2009

An HIV Epidemic?

Comparative Data Report | December 2008


Comparative Data Report | November 2007


Comparative Data Report | November 2006


Comparative Data Report | November 2005


Comparative Data Report | November 2004


Comparative Data Report | November 2003


Comparative Data Report | November 2002


Comparative Data Report | November 2001


Comparative Data Report | November 2000