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Officials: More Money, Personnel needed to Fight Opioid Epidemic

State lawmakers, law enforcement officials and local leaders met Thursday to discuss the opioid epidemic and their ongoing fight against it as part of the Metro Drug Coalition's annual legislative luncheon.

MDC handed out a list of legislative items for lawmakers to consider ahead of the January session. Another topic of discussion was money and the need for more resources to fight the epidemic.

"It's great to be able to get so many different levels of legislatures in the same room," said Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen.

Allen was one of several local leaders who led a panel discussion focused on the fight.

"We need more money, we need more personnel. We have specific laws that we want to target to change but it starts at the local level," Allen added. She is not the only one suggesting more money will help.

"It's the number one issue that we are wanting to face and make a difference with," said Marie Williams, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Williams said she has asked for $10 million to increase treatment services specifically for those addicted to opioids.

"We've already seen a 30 percent increase in Tennesseans that are getting very much needed treatment for opioid addiction," she added.

Tennessee's Department of Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner also attended Thursday's event. He said people need to change their perception of the problem.

"More and more people realize what a challenge it is for the nation that it's not helpful to stigmatize people that we are talking about a disease that has many complications and it's not a moral failure," Dreyzehner said.

State Reps. Bill Dunn and Eddie Smith are hopeful to continue to change laws to help save lives.

"We've been able to get out ahead and start passing laws to make things happen, so we are attacking the problem and we are in a better position that when federal funds come we can fill in the holes that we haven't been able to do so far," Dunn said.

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