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Shelby County Mayor Announces Efforts to Fight Opioid Crisis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( - Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell announced new efforts to take down the opioid epidemic, that has claimed hundreds of lives in the Mid-South.

According to county leaders, more than 500 local deaths related to opioid over the past 4 years.

In 2017, the number 901 was more than an area code. The Shelby County Health Department reported they calculated 901 emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who alongside Luttrell as a show of support and to show the epidemic is also hitting the city, reported around 2,500 doses of the opioid overdose antidote Narcan, were used in 2017.

Luttrell told reporters the changes are a comprehensive approach to tackling a complicated crisis.

The multifaceted approach includes: a new database that tracks overdoses and treatment that police, fire and EMS can all access and in turn offer a targeted response; community education sessions; and an opioid awareness campaign to help county employees who have been touched by addiction.

Officials said currently, several departments are tracking opioid related data, but there is not one database dedicated to the problem.

Under the umbrella of offering county government employees more resources, Shelby County will work with contracted health providers to analyze physician prescription patterns. A spokesperson for the county emphasized this would not look into individual patient information, but rather a physician's prescription trends.

"The work ahead is going to be critical and as been noted by Mayor Luttrell previously this is work for the long haul. This is not a problem that we're going to solve overnight. It didn't occur overnight," said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Director of the Shelby County Health Department.

Opioid Problem In Shelby County

Shortly after Wednesday's announcement, 8 Shelby County Commissioners met during a special called meeting and voted to override two of Mayor Luttrell's vetoes related to the ongoing feud over who can and should file an opioid lawsuit.

"The real point on this is about how big the contracting authority is that the mayor has. We are trying to push forward with really solving the problem and who's going to pay for it in this county," said Commission Chair Heidi Shafer.

"We've maintained that the mayor has sole contracting authority. we've filed a motion to intervene in circuit court the judge will rule on that depending on how that comes out we'll be able to proceed one way or the other," said Shelby County CAO Harvey Kennedy.

Kennedy said he believes everyone has the same goal in mind, it is just a matter of who has the authority to initiate litigation and sign contracts.

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