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Opioid Task Force Lets Tennesseans Tell Their Stories

“It was just a horrible, horrible, horrible time up until the day of her death.”

Those were the emotional words of Clarksville chiropractor Danny Davis, as he testified before the first meeting of the Opioid Task Force I recently appointed. Dr. Davis was the first to share his personal story of addiction in his family, but he will not be the last.

I appointed this task force to delve into this issue and find comprehensive solutions to this problem. Around the country, and especially here in Tennessee, we are facing an epidemic.

We really are at the epicenter of the opioid crisis in America. There are more opioid prescriptions than there are people in this state. In 2015, more than 1,400 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses, the highest annual number in our state’s history. And from 2000 to 2012, the rate of babies born with exposure increased 15 fold.

There are groups and individuals around the state working diligently on this issue, and I have charged the task force with including them as stakeholders in these discussions. I have asked that this task force look into the possibility of pilot programs, measure results of these programs and determine best practices.

The legislature has taken some great steps to fight this epidemic, but if additional legislation is needed, I want the task force to develop it.

I have also asked the task force to look into the various treatment options available, to get people who are addicted the help they so desperately need. If there are treatment programs around the state that are seeing results, perhaps that is something we can replicate statewide. Treatment can have a lasting impact, and should be one of the priorities of the task force.

The task force will hear from those who have struggled with addiction, whose family members have struggled with addiction, law enforcement, district attorneys, doctors and other medical professionals and officials from the relevant state departments. This input from stakeholders will be crucial moving forward.

In the weeks since I announced this task force, I have heard from countless Tennesseans who have shared their deeply-personal stories of addiction and how it has touched their family. This outpouring has reinforced for me how incredibly important it is that we get this right. People around the state are begging for a solution, and we owe it to them to work towards one.

In the coming months, I hope Tennesseans will continue to engage and share their thoughts and input with me and the members of the task force. Better understanding the scope of the problem, and how it affects our communities, is paramount to finding solutions.

I know each member of the task force shares my urgency in tackling this problem, as they know this issue is too critical to ignore.

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