During a Senate Health committee meeting in Tennessee, the chairman stated that it was imperative that partners of the local, state, and federal level come together to fight the growing opiate crisis. With millions of individuals across the United States currently suffering from addiction to prescription opioid medications such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and many others, it has quickly come to the forefront of conversations. This comes on the heels of reports that show that opiate overdoses are growing across the United States. The amount of fatal opiate overdoses has tripled since 2000 and over 1,000 Tennesseans die every year from opiate overdoses.
Chairman Lamar Alexander stated that the cost of this epidemic is far too high. He has heard reports of the opiate epidemic presenting immense challenges near his hometown, and is aware that the problem is growing elsewhere.
"The truth of the matter is that this issue is affecting all states, and has become the issue on the front of the minds of communities across the nation," he stated. While he knows that this is a complex issue he believes that everyone has a role in working to eliminate the opiate crisis, from families and communities to doctors and law enforcement. He has called for suggestions from everyone for ways that the federal government can help to overcome this problem.
Alexander mentioned a roundtable that was held in September where it was announced that Tennessee would receive $3.4 million dollars to fight opiate abuse and overdoses. These funds will be dispersed over a period of four years to combat the more than 69,000 Tennessee residents that are addicted to opiates. There is high hope that these funds will help to reduce the one thousand overdose deaths that Tennessee is currently experiencing every year.
"It is important to remember that behind these statistics there are very real human beings who are struggling. People whose lives are being cut short due to this issue," Alexander reminded people.
Tennessee has multiple programs that are designed to meet the needs of those who are addicted to opiates. They have implemented programs that make it harder for drug seekers to "doctor shop" across the state to get multiple prescriptions. Doctors are now required to check the database to make sure that their patient does not have a current prescription before writing them a new one.
There is change mobilizing across the nation as well. In November, the president signed the new “Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015”, which will work to reverse the growing epidemic of children being born addicted to opiates. In Tennessee alone, there has been a tenfold increase in the number of children addicted to drugs in the last ten years. The Department of Health and Human Services is now developing a comprehensive strategy that will help to address any gaps in research, as well as working to make federal treatment and prevention services that offer assistance to addicted pregnant women more effective.
Hopefully, these services will help the millions of Americans who are addicted to opiates across the nation while reducing the number of people who are dying from opioid use.