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Campaign to Fight Opioid Addiction Gives Communities across Tennessee Hope

As Tennessee approaches the one-year anniversary of the TNTogether plan — former governor Bill Haslam’s effort to fight the opioid epidemic — there are signs the effort may be having positive results.

The plan, signed on June 29, 2018, in Maryville, includes legislation and maps out a strategy to combat the opioid epidemic throughout Tennessee. Made up of three components, the TNTogether plan includes prevention, treatment and law enforcement in its quest to end the medical crisis.

As of 2017, Tennessee ranked 16th in opioid deaths in the U. S. and was the third highest prescriber of opioids, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported that in 2017 Tennessee surpassed the national rate of opioid overdose deaths. That year, there were 1,269 opioid overdose deaths in Tennessee, averaging 19.3 deaths per 100,000 people. The national rate was 14.6 per 100,000 people.

In Blount County, there were 29 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, according to CDC statistics.

TNTogether designated $30 million in state and federal funds to combat the opioid epidemic. Of this amount, $25,000 was allotted for treatment and recovery services.

Other facets of the plan that received additional funding were residential treatment and services within the state’s correction facilities, the state’s zero to three court programs and providing naloxone to state troopers for emergency treatments.

Pioneer programs that resulted from the plan and were funded through the legislation were a commission to create competencies for medical and health practitioner schools, a collaboration of health care stakeholders to study the best practices for pain management and the launch of a public awareness campaign.

This public awareness campaign manifested in an interactive website that serves as a resource to connect the opioid addiction-fighting efforts of counties across Tennessee.

“We created a website that told people everyone can do something, “ Alexis McCallister, program manager for the, said.

The site includes activities that assist viewers in learning more about opioids and addictions. It then provides the viewers with both small and large ways to combat opioid addiction in their communities. The activities range a broad spectrum of topics, from schools to first responders.

“It’s kind of like a case study of what’s being done,” said McCallister.

In addition to providing information about the opioid epidemic, the website also showcases success stories about different communities’ efforts to fight opioid addiction.

“It gives you a sense of hope that people are doing things,” said McCallister.

More than 7,000 viewers have interacted with the site since its creation in September 2018.

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