January 22, 2018
Joel Ebert and Anita Wadhwani
Educating children, making overdose-reversing drugs available to all state troopers and adding hundreds of prison beds to treat those fighting opioid addiction are part of Gov. Bill Haslam and legislative leaders’ comprehensive $30 million proposal to combat the epidemic.
The proposal comes as Tennessee continues to fight the ongoing crisis, which now claims at least three lives a day in Tennessee. More than 1,600 residents died from drug overdoses in 2016.
“It is no secret our country faces a huge challenge in the opioid epidemic,” Haslam said at a Monday press conference unveiling the initiative. “Tennessee unfortunately is not an exception to the problem.”
The plan — dubbed “TN Together” — will be funded with both federal and state dollars and consist of three main components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
The largest component is focused on treatment. The proposal calls for $25 million in state and federal funding to be directed toward paying for treatment and recovery programs for people who cannot afford them.
Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Marie Williams said anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 members of the public could be provided assistance with the new money.
“We are also meeting with private providers to see if we can get them to invest into a public-provide leverage to expand that number,” Williams said, adding the state has also served an additional 5,000 people using federal dollars.
The latest estimates indicate as many as 300,000 Tennesseans are misusing drugs, with 82,000 addicted to drugs, she said.
Read the full story on The Tennessean.