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Tri-Cities Mother Who Lost Son to Substance Abuse Hopeful after Haslam Plan

NASHVILLE/BRISTOL, TN (WJHL) – Tennessee’s governor unveiled his plan to fight the state’s prescription drug and opioid crisis and a local mother who lost her son to addiction says it gives her more hope.

It’s a public health and law enforcement emergency the state says claims at least three lives daily.

Governor Bill Haslam calls it “TN Together.” It’s a $30 million legislative initiative he spelled out at a new conference Monday afternoon in Nashville.

The plan calls for $25 million to pay for drug treatment for needy Tennesseans. The state acknowledged there’s a desperate need for more treatment options.

The plan also calls for more specialists in emergency rooms, more agent positions with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and an increased supply of the overdose-reversing drug, Narcan or Naloxone.

“Our Tennessee together plan will be comprised of three components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement,” Governor Haslam said.

We reached out to Mountain States Health Alliance which long ago identified drug addiction as a major problem. We also reached out to Sullivan County’s DA who’s part of a lawsuit against drug companies. Both withheld comment while they looked through the plan.

A Bristol mother who is passionate about the issue, created an organization to help families of addicts called The Addicts Family.

Rhonda Coffey lost her son in 2015 and is hopeful no one else has to live through the nightmare she’s endured.

“I just remember the significance of taking a family photo, with my kids,” Coffey said while admiring a family photo.

Coffey said her and her son David were very close and she was blindsided by his addiction to opioids.

“He shattered his ankle and from that point on it was all down hill. He started with the pain medicine from the hospital, he was ordering Oxycotin from the internet.” Coffey said.

That eventually lead to an overdose of meth and heroin.

“It just spiraled,” she said.

It’s a spiral that’s she’s thrilled to see Governor Haslam working to address.

“First to address prevention, with reasonable exceptions we will limit the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions,” Governor Haslam said.

Through his new Tennessee Together plan announced Monday, that includes a change in education.

“For K-12 we will introduce revisions to the state health education academic standards to increase education toward prevention,” Governor Haslam said.

Coffey said education is crucial.

“Education from Kindergarten up that’s going to be instrumental, making sure that that’s evidence based education material,” Coffey said.

She’s also excited to hear that the governor is looking to supply Tennessee Highway Patrol officers with Narcan.

She’s hopeful to see more resources planned for 2018, that her son didn’t have.

“I feel like he was still brave because every day he fought this disease without much help,” Coffey said.

She’s establishing a fund called Dave’s Peace Fund, because he would always tell her he wanted peace. The money raised for that will help people get treatment and help families that need help taking care of loves one.

Republicans in Nashville applauded the governor’s plan. Democrats are saying the plan doesn’t go far enough.

The Chairman of the Democratic Party said any effort to deal with the opioid crisis should start with expanding Medicaid, something Republicans firmly oppose.

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