March 31, 2017
Kristi L. Nelson
The state’s new weapons to fight the opioid addiction epidemic might be nurses who have been addicts themselves, and naloxone kits in the hands of those most likely to overdose.
Oh, and $13.8 million from the Sen. Lamar Alexander-led 21st Century Cures Act.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is counting on its piece of the 21st Century Cures money to come through as early as this month. If the Tennessee legislature also passes Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget, which includes $6 million for substance abuse services, the department expects to be in an even better position to make a dent in the problem.
The federal government anticipates the $13.8 million from 21st Century Cures, spread out over two years, “moving along pretty quickly, because we are in a crisis,” said Rodney Bragg, assistant commissioner of substance abuse services for the state.
Nearly 20 percent of the money is designated for “prevention,” which could include providing naloxone kits to people at high risk for overdose, said Sarah Cooper, director of prevention and early intervention services for the TDMHSA. If given in time, the drug can reverse opioid overdose.
The department is planning a statewide media campaign, heavily using social media and well-known figures, such as Titans football players, to widen awareness of the epidemic and resources for help.
And it’s in the “development stages” of a plan to put in different regions throughout the state nurses who are themselves in addiction recovery.
“We really feel as though a nurse who has experienced issues with substance use disorders would have an intimate knowledge of recovery and success,” Cooper said.
Read more in the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Kristi Nelson is a general assignment news reporter who covers health, social services and other issues, and she has won several awards for features and news writing. She is a member of East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Healthcare Journalists.