Tennessee Issues Warning about Deadly Drug

A powerful legal painkiller has proven so deadly in Tennessee, the state issued a public health advisory about it on Thursday. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, along with the state's health department and Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said overdose deaths associated with the anesthetic fentanyl are increasing statewide. It's not only because the drug itself is being purposely abused, but also because it's become increasingly common for law enforcement to find it in counterfeit versions of pain pills such as oxycodone or benzodiazepines such as Xanax. People buying these drugs on the street and taking them are unprepared for the strength of

State to Begin Sending Recovery Coaches to Emergency Departments

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A change in the system could help your loved ones who are suffering from drug addiction. At Lawrence & Memorial Hospital’s emergency department they often see the same overdose victims over and over again and a new program is aimed at stopping that. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will now begin sending recovery coaches to emergency departments. They will help people dealing with opioid, alcohol or other drug-related overdoses. “Sadly some of the staff know them by first name upon sight,” said Jay Osborne who is one of the new recovery coaches. “When people overdose there’s a vital window in which we can potentially intervene to help connect th

Drug Addiction-Domestic Violence Connection Strong

In his long career in law enforcement, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch learned to expect a connection between alcohol and domestic violence calls. These days, the link between abuse and addiction is still there, but the primary substance has changed. Rausch said police now find opioid use tied to more domestic violence calls — as it is to theft, other types of violence and “just about every call” to police. “Opioid addiction has taken over in terms in everything that we do,” Rausch said. “This is an addiction issue unlike anything we have seen in our community.” Opioid-violence link On Wednesday evening, Rausch sat on a panel on “Opioid Abuse and Its Relationship with Domestic Violence,”

Tennessee to Receive $13.8 Million Aimed at Prescription Opioid Crisis

Historic Increase for Substance Abuse Treatment in Tennessee NASHVILLE - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D. has announced that the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will be awarded $13.8 million through the 21st Century Cures Act to help combat the prescription opioid epidemic in Tennessee. This is the largest single federal funding increase for opioid treatment in the state’s history. In his letter to governors, Secretary Price wrote, in part, “As I begin my tenure as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I do so with a profound commitment to addressing this public health crisis as one of our top three Departme

Drug Arriving in Nashville is 10,000 Times More Powerful than Morphine

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Director of Emergency Services for Metro Nashville is concerned a synthetic opioid emerging in Middle Tennessee could cause an increase in deadly overdoses. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid created for use in large animals like elephants. In humans, the drug is so powerful it can cause a deadly overdose within seconds. “One of the key problems of carfentanil is how potent it is,” Dr. Corey Slovis said. “We really worry we won’t get to the patient in time.” Metro police along with U.S. Postal inspectors intercepted a package of carfentanil mailed from Florida to Nashville on April 19. The package had 140 milligrams of the drug, enough to kill thousands of people

Unwanted Medication Collection Events this Weekend in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Knoxville Police Department, Knox County and City of Knoxville Solid Waste Offices, Knox County Health Department and East Tennessee Regional Medication Collection Coalition are holding two events later this week to collect old or unwanted medication so it can be properly disposed of. The event is Friday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Healthy Living Expo a at the Knoxville Convention Center and the Food City in South Knoxville at 760 Mountain Grove Drive. If you can’t make it to either location, you can drop off medication at the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building, 800 Howard Baker Jr. Avenue, 24 hours a d

Taking the First Step

After years of drug addiction, a new mother finds peace at the Susannah’s House recovery program Lying on a cold concrete floor inside the Knox County Jail, Meghan Denney thought of her unborn child and started to cry. Her body trembled, her stomach churned, her head ached — the painful symptoms of drug withdrawal. When she would look in the mirror, she saw a woman she barely recognized: no more than 90 pounds, with messy hair, disheveled clothes and bloodshot eyes. “At that moment, I prayed to God and asked for him to help me or just let me die,” she says. Denney was only 17 when she first began experimenting with narcotics. She later married a man who sold drugs and together they fed their

After the OD: County Looks at Hiring Post-Naloxone Case Manager

There’s no question naloxone works well to keep people from dying after they’ve overdosed on opioid drugs. But both emergency responders and those who are addicted also know there’s no guarantee naloxone will be there the next time the patient overdoses – and there will be a next time for many. Knoxville Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan is among those intent on finding a way to intervene after an overdose call. A naloxone collaborative of local emergency response agencies and advocates are tracking how often the overdose antidote is dispensed, but the group’s still looking for a way to engage patients after the emergency. “There’s no wraparound for those folks,” Buchanan said.

Women in Courts Other than Criminal can Fall Through Cracks

Sometimes, Juvenile Court of Knox County Judge Tim Irwin looks at the young women in his courtroom struggling with addiction, about to lose custody of their children, and he wonders if their chances of making it would be better or worse if they’d done something to land themselves in jail. In criminal court, depending on the county and the situation, they might be eligible for rehab services through one of the state’s Recovery Courts, which give nonviolent, serial offenders a chance for treatment versus jail. There, if they violate probation and begin using again, Irwin said, they’re put back in jail, “where you can’t have access to your drug of choice. You start the process of getting sober.

Program Aims to Meet Addicts' Health Needs Long Term

As early as 2010, they began to see the signs of the coming epidemic. Patients came in for primary care with needle tracks on their arms and full-blown cases of undiagnosed hepatitis C. Pregnant women waited until well into their third trimester to seek prenatal care — afraid to keep taking the drugs they were on, afraid to quit. People, hurting, no longer able to afford the prescription opioids that dulled the pain, stooped to buying heroin on the street. They’d come in, see a doctor or nurse practitioner, then disappear for weeks or months. Some would get clean, only to relapse. Some would come back with their parents or their children — multiple generations of families hooked on drugs. Pr

Trump Administration Awards Grants to States to Combat Opioid Crisis

HHS will administer grants totaling $485 million to all 50 states. Secretary Price sends letter to governors: “Through a sustained focus on people, patients, and partnerships, I am confident that together we can turn the tide on this public health crisis." Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D. today announced that HHS will soon provide $485 million in grants to help states and territories combat opioid addiction. The funding, which is the first of two rounds provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act, will be provided through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The fundin

Program Aims to Meet Addicts' Health Needs Long Term

As early as 2010, they began to see the signs of the coming epidemic. Patients came in for primary care with needle tracks on their arms and full-blown cases of undiagnosed hepatitis C. Pregnant women waited until well into their third trimester to seek prenatal care — afraid to keep taking the drugs they were on, afraid to quit. People, hurting, no longer able to afford the prescription opioids that dulled the pain, stooped to buying heroin on the street. They’d come in, see a doctor or nurse practitioner, then disappear for weeks or months. Some would get clean, only to relapse. Some would come back with their parents or their children — multiple generations of families hooked on drugs. Pr

TN Bill would Allow Anti-Opioid Overdose Drug to be Carried, Used in Schools

A drug used to reverse the effects of a drug overdose may soon be coming to classrooms across Tennessee. The life-saving drug, Naloxone, is carried by many law enforcement agencies in our region. Now, a new bill, making its way through the Tennessee state legislature, may allow it in schools. The bill would require the state's Board of Education to set up guidelines for Naloxone in schools. From there, each school system would decide if it wants to carry the anti-overdose drug. "I mean it's really a tool that's just as handy as AEDs, and Epipens," Regional Medical Director for the Tennessee Department of Health, Dr. David Kirschke said. Dr. Kirschke also noted that Naloxone training is also

Small-Town Struggles: Addiction, Lack of Resources Plague Health Providers at TN-KY Border

A dozen years ago, Dr. Geogy Thomas wasn’t prepared to see pregnant women addicted to pain medication in his little rural primary-care clinic. When they trickled in, he’d refer them to a high-risk obstetrics practice at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, an hour away. Then he started seeing more and more of them – later and later in pregnancy. He realized many weren’t going to UT Medical Center. Many weren’t getting prenatal care at all. “We didn’t feel comfortable taking care of the patients here, but they weren’t getting the care anyway,” Thomas said. “And that’s when we had to do a little soul-searching of our own, to say, ‘How do we take care of our own community?’”

Bill Haslam Signs Repeal of New Nashville, Memphis Marijuana Laws

Nashville and Memphis received great fanfare last fall from criminal justice advocates for passing local ordinances that gave police the power to reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But now it's over after just seven months. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed into law Republican-backed legislation to repeal separate Nashville and Memphis laws that had allowed partial marijuana decriminalization in those communities, officially putting an end to the short-lived policies. The nullification effort, sponsored by House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, and Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, breezed through the House and Senate l

From Detroit to Knoxville, Rising Number of Drug Overdoses Lead to Response

Firefighters with the Knoxville Fire Department are seeing an increased number of overdose calls over the past few years. “I ran it in people’s homes, I’ve ran it in grocery stores, I’ve ran it in gas station parking lots. I’ve ran it in hotels, motels. There is no rhyme or reason to where people are using it and how they're using it. It’s becoming a city wide problem," said Christopher Patterson, a Knoxville Firefighter for the past 14 years. Patterson said overdose calls are becoming commonplace for many fire stations. "Unfortunately we are running them sometimes once a shift, sometimes two or three times a shift and there have been companies, I think, that run four or five overdoses a day

Time for Drug Courts To Equip Participants with Naloxone

Individuals who use opioids after a period of abstinence are at a higher risk for overdose due to a lowered tolerance, a circumstance in which drug court participants with a history of opioid use may find themselves. In light of this significant risk, the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) released a fact sheet late last year titled “Naloxone: Overview and Considerations for Drug Court Programs” along with an online naloxone training course. The new fact sheet and course are follow-ups to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ (NADCP) resolution in 2015 encouraging the distribution of naloxone to drug court participants who may witness or experience an opioid overdose. Data

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If they're still alive, there's hope.