By Jill Penley
Opioids abuse remains a big problem for Tennessee, Johnson County.
The nation’s struggle with opioids continues as nearly two million Americans are estimated to be addicted to prescription painkillers, and the volunteer state seems especially vulnerable with nearly 2,000 reported drug overdose deaths just last year.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the death toll has risen for least the sixth year in a row.
“More Tennesseans died last year from drug overdoses than from automobile crashes,” said Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner in an August news release announcing the overdose death toll.
Prescription opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone remain the most common cause of overdoses, but an alarming number of deaths are attributed to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, that can be up to 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and deadly. Prescribed only in instances of extreme pain, fentanyl typically comes in patches worn on the skin. Anesthesiologists also use the drug during surgery.
“It is going to take a community-wide effort to combat the opioids crisis in our community and our region,” said Trish Burchette, A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition Executive Director. “The ACTION Coalition is working to bring together all sectors of our community in 2019 to provide resources to each other and our community.” The coalition is
actively pursuing grant funding to aid in fighting this
ongoing crisis at the local level.
Legislation passed last year strengthened the number of times dispensers had to turn information into the database. The law states: “Any pharmacy, or licensed healthcare practitioner, who has a DEA number and dispenses controlled substances in (or into) Tennessee must report to the database daily (but no later than the close of business on the following business day); each controlled substance they have dispensed over the last twenty-four (24) hours.
If a dispensing healthcare practitioner does not dispense any Schedule II-V prescriptions during a reporting period, a “zero report” must be submitted to the database.”
In the past, pharmacists had to call insurance companies to get more information on a patient. Now, pharmacists are expected to turn away anyone they suspect of misusing or abusing drugs.
Burchette advises the A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition is actively working with the local faith community to initiate a new support group in Johnson County. “We are holding a meeting with local church leaders or anyone interested in helping on January 3, at 6 pm at the First Christian Church in Mountain City to discuss the best way to provide resources in Johnson County to those in need.”
For more information regarding the upcoming meeting or for information and resources to assist with opioids addiction, contact the Action Coalition office at 727-0780 or stop by the office 138 East Main Street.