County applauds state effort to combat opioids

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2018


With the number of drug overdose deaths in Tennessee rising by nearly 200 from 2015 to 2016, leaders are now banding together to chip away at an epidemic that is plaguing the country.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was joined by leaders from the House and Senate on Monday, Jan. 22, to announce a new initiative, titled “TN Together,” worth $30 million to help tackle the opioid epidemic in the state by addressing three different categories: prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

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“This is a crisis that knows no boundaries and impacts many Tennesseans regardless of race, income, gender or age. Our approach will be aggressive with provisions to limit the supply of opioids and significant state and federal dollars to provide treatment to those in need,” Haslam said in an emailed statement issued to the Elizabethton Star. “I applaud the collaboration and the considerable work of the House and Senate on the TN Together plan, as well as the judicial branch’s leadership through the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative and National Opioid Task Force, and I ask all stakeholders around this issue to work together to achieve real reform and action that will save lives.”   

According to the Governor’s Office, TN Together will tackle the epidemic in a variety of ways.

Legislation to limit the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions, with reasonable exception and an emphasis on new patients. Initial prescriptions will be limited to a five-day supply with daily dosage limits of 40 morphine milligram equivalent (MME).

Identifying women of childbearing age who are chronic opioid users and providing targeted outreach for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Providing every state trooper with naloxone.

$25 million investment for treatment and recovery services for individuals with opioid use disorder.

Improving the state’s data systems to critical hot spots.

Legislation that expands residential treatment and services for opioid dependence with incentives.

Attacking the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids by providing resources to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for rapid response teams.

Along with the bullet points mentioned by the state, an executive order was also issued Monday to establish a special commission to create items for adoption by the state’s medical and health care practitioner schools.

Information provided by the Tennessee Department of Health indicated the East Tennessee Region had 149 opioid overdose deaths in 2016 along with 21 heroin deaths.

Carter County saw its numbers grow with 14 deaths in 2016 to opioids, up from 10 in 2015.

Jilian Reece, executive director of Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition, said the announcement was a welcomed sight.

“It is encouraging to see that Tennessee’s leadership recognizes how substantial and impactful the opioid crisis is in our state and is working to make changes,” Reece said. “If we want to see these numbers of overdose and addiction decrease, we have to have partners in every sector, including government.

“Realizing the importance of prevention, appropriate prescribing practices, having treatment facilities available, education on overdose prevention, keeping medications at home secure and providing the funding for these programs is valuable to the people in our communities,” she added.

CCDP has been actively working with other coalitions across the region. While working with the youth in the area, CCDP has worked alongside different agencies, including the health department and local law enforcement, to promote healthy ideas and initiatives to help stall the movement of drugs and substances across the county.

Reece also encouraged the public to visit to learn more about the opioid epidemic across the state. For updates on programs going on locally, visit the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook page.