House Republicans Pass ‘Tennessee Together’ Plan To Help Combat Opioid Epidemic

While the federal government has only just commenced conversation about the opioid epidemic, Tennessee leads the way in fighting the situation here at home. This week, House Republicans passed legislation to combat the state’s opioid problem head on: Tennessee Together.

Tennessee Together is a multi-faceted plan comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through the proposed 2018-2019 budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. The plan incorporates recommendations made by Speaker Beth Harwell’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

In 2016, there were over 1,600 opioid related overdose deaths, one of the highest in the nation, and statistics show the numbers are only increasing. Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from opioid-related overdoses — more than the daily number of traffic fatalities.

Legislative solutions included in Tennessee Together include limiting the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions, with reasonable exception and an emphasis on new patients, as well as education for elementary and secondary schools through revisions to the state’s health education academic standards.

Additionally, the plan invests more than $25 million for treatment and recovery services for individuals with opioid use disorder. These services will include an increase in peer recovery specialists in targeted, high-need emergency departments to connect patients to treatment immediately.

Tennessee Together increases state funding to attack the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids through additional law enforcement agencies and training, and includes updates to the controlled substance schedules in order to better track, monitor, and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs — including fentanyl. Finally, the plan provides every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose prior to paramedic arrival.

House Republicans are dedicated to working closely with the Governor to address Tennessee’s opioid problem. While the Tennessee Together plan is a huge step in the right direction, expect additional time and resources to be spent on the opioid front in the coming days.

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