CCDP commends state’s effort to combat opioids with TN Together

Published 3:08 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

With his term nearing an end, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently signed a piece of legislation that is being touted as an “aggressive and comprehensive” plan to help combat the opioid epidemic in the state.

TN Together is an initiative that is geared to addressing the opioid crisis in three different areas — prevention, treatment and law enforcement. The legislation went into effect July 1.

“This legislation is a major step in helping fight this epidemic by limiting the supply of opioids and providing resources to provide treatment for those addicted,” Haslam said Friday in a statement provided to the Elizabethton Star. “I am proud to sign the TN Together legislation today and I thank the members of the 110th General Assembly for their commitment to addressing this crisis. Opioid addiction affects the entire state in some form, and with this comprehensive plan I feel confident that we can make a difference in the lives of Tennesseans.”

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Two pieces of legislation helped mold TN Together – HB1821/SB2257 and HB1832/SB2258.

The first piece, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R – Collierville), Sen. Ferrell Haile (R – Gallatin) and Rep. David Hawk (R – Greeneville), helps monitor the duration and dosage of opioid prescriptions for new patients, with reasonable exceptions. In the second piece, sponsored by Norris, Sen. Ken Yager (R – Kingston) and Rep. Bill Dunn (R – Knoxville), creates incentives for offenders to complete substance-use treatment programs while incarcerated and updates the schedule of controlled substances to track and monitor unlawful distribution of opioids, including synthetic versions of the drug fentanyl.

Another part of TN Together includes Haslam’s executive order to establish a special commission to “formulate current, evidence-based pain and addiction medicine competencies for adoption by state medical and health care practitioner schools. The 2018-19 budget also includes over $16 million to fund treatment and services for opioid addiction.

With Northeast Tennessee feeling the brunt of the epidemic, Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Director Jilian Reece noted the legislation is vital for the issue.

“It’s very reassuring to know that the state is taking aggressive steps to help with the opioid epidemic,” Reece said. “I was excited to see the access to treatment centers be part of the legislation. My hope is that people that genuinely need the help can receive it. It also helps address overprescribing and provides safeguards for those that do need help.”

CCDP has been leading the charge locally when it comes to offering opportunities to help combat drug and substance abuse. Recently, the organization was able to work alongside 15 partnering agencies for a retreat in Roan Mountain to prepare for the 2018-19 year of projects.

“Seeing legislators take steps to help with these issues really does show hope for the future and our goals to help the community,” Reece said. “We were able to work with our partnering agencies to brainstorm ideas for the upcoming year. Both our youth and adult executive committees enjoyed planning the activities.”

CCDP was able to hold an opioid forum this past year with assistance from various community partners and regularly stays involved with other local projects. The youth of the organization also do their part by working with their peers.

An interesting note from the conference was the excitement from TNSTRONG students, Reece said. After coming from their recent TNSTRONG Conference in Chattanooga, Reece said the group is working to orchestrate a conference for third through fifth graders.

“It will be all peer-led sessions,” Reece said. “It was great to see their reaction and excitement. They understand the importance of letting our children in the community know about the issues that come with drug and substance abuse.”

More information on the conference will be made available in the coming weeks.