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Haslam Administration Begins Rollout of $30 Million Plan to Combat Opioid Epidemic

The Haslam Administration on Wednesday took its first formal steps to roll out a new $30 million effort to combat the state's opioid epidemic, filing bills to limit prescriptions and to reduce sentences for prisoners who complete treatment programs.

Gov. Bill Haslam also appointed 19 experts to a newly created commission that will make recommendations on how the state's medical schools educate the next generation of nurses, doctors and dentists on how to avoid over-prescribing opioids.

When employee addictions were leading to high absenteeism and high turnover at Jones Plastic & Engineering Company in Camden, Tenn., management decided to help employees confront their issues. Lacy Atkins / The Tennessean

The measures follow Monday's unveiling of "TN Together" initiative to combat a crisis that now claims more lives than car accidents. An average of three people each day die from overdoses in Tennessee.

More than 1,600 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016, a number that experts believe is an under-count of the true death toll.

More: Opioids, tanning beds and more: 5 things to watch in the Tennessee legislature this week

More: Tennessee gubernatorial candidates discuss health care, opioid crisis at Nashville forum

The largest component of Haslam's plan is making more treatment available to those who are uninsured or cannot afford it.. The proposal calls for $25 million in state and federal funding to be directed toward paying for treatment and recovery programs.

His plan also calls for limiting the number of opioids initially prescribed to five for most first-time patients requiring the powerful pain drugs, although there are exceptions in certain cases. A bill that would require those new limits was filed Wednesday.

More: Medicaid fraud is helping drive opioid crisis, new GOP congressional report suggests

More: Opioid epidemic's 'collateral damage': When a drug-free workplace doesn't exist

Another component of the plan calls for reduced sentences reduction credits for prisoners who successfully complete a nine-month intensive substance abuse treatment program.

A bill that would give inmates a 60-day reduction was filed Wednesday.

Haslam's plan calls for a combination of federal and state funding to be used in combating the opioid crisis.

No additional details on the funding breakdown have yet been provided.

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