By Jonathan Mattise
Gov. Bill Haslam touted a $30 million plan Monday that focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement to attack an opioid epidemic that kills at least three people a day in Tennessee.
The Republican governor released details of the ‘TN Together’ initiative in a news conference Monday alongside Senate Speaker Randy McNally, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins and numerous other officials.
The proposal would limit the amount of opioids someone can receive on initial prescriptions and put more than $25 million in state and federal money toward improving treatment and recovery services. It would offer a new public awareness campaign and education in elementary and secondary schools. It would also reach out to women of childbearing age who are chronic opioid users about the risks of giving birth to drug-addicted babies.
A yet-to-be-released number of new state investigators would focus on opioid work, and 512 beds at a western Tennessee prison would be repurposed to help treat opioid addicts, doubling the number of those dedicated beds across the state prison system.
The plan is one of Haslam’s last major priorities in his final annual legislative session before leaving office next January due to term limits. He said the state has already made a dent in the opioid front, but this plan reflects what officials have learned over several years about how to best tackle the problem.
“The encouraging thing is there is nobody in our state that I have talked to that wants to make this a political issue,” Haslam said. “There’s nobody that says, ‘I want some recognition out of this.’ There are a lot of people that say, ‘I want to be a part of helping solve this.’”