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Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists Mark Milestone

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) announced that its Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists (ROPS) distributed 35,000 units of naloxone across the state from October 2017 to present. More than 14,000 of the units were distributed directly to law enforcement.

The ROPS are regionally-focused community trainers who work in their assigned areas to educate people about substance use disorder, opioid overdose, and the use of naloxone. Since the program began in October 2017, ROPS have held 1,450 trainings reaching more than 32,000 people statewide. Trainings are targeted to people at risk of overdose, community groups that interface with people at risk of overdose, and first responders.

“The only way to misuse naloxone is to not use naloxone. It’s the only antidote to opioid overdose, and it saves lives,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “If we can prevent an opioid overdose from taking a person’s life, we can truly give them a second chance at seeing the hope that lies ahead in recovery from addiction.”

The ROPS program has documented more than 2,000 lives saved as a result of naloxone distributed through the program. The department believes the actual number of lives saved is higher than reported for a number of reasons including the stigma of addiction.

“Because of the success we’ve seen with the ROPS, and with new funding and support from our federal, state, and local partners, we’ve recently increased the number of ROPS covering the state from 13 to 20,” said Taryn Sloss, TDMHSAS Assistant Commissioner for Substance Abuse Services.

The ROPS program is funded through a number of sources, but the majority of the financial support comes from the federal government in the Opioid State Targeted Response and State Opioid Response grants. Additional funding is supplied by the state of Tennessee and the Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Partners at the Tennessee Department of Health share information that helps identify areas of highest need for overdose prevention services.

“This is yet another program that shows the strength of our state’s network of 46 Community Anti-Drug Coalitions,” said Anthony Jackson, Jr., TDMHSAS Director of Prevention Services. “Because our ROPS are positioned at the local level with coalitions and other non-profits, they’re able to respond to specific needs in their communities and help out in times of emergency.”

Because of the nature of their work with people who are at risk of overdose, many of the people employed in the ROPS program are Certified Peer Recovery Specialists. The certification program is maintained by TDMHSAS to educate and train people with lived experience of mental illness or addiction to use their past to help others attain a life of recovery.

Learn more about the Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists:

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