Governor rolls out plan to tackle prescription pill problem

Prescription pills have replaced alcohol as the number one most abused substance in state funded treatment facilities. 6-3-14

Prescription pills have replaced alcohol as the number one most abused substance in state funded treatment facilities, Governor Bill Haslam told a crowd at the Capitol Tuesday.

From crime, to health, to economic development, Haslam said it seems nearly every state department feels the impact of prescription pill abuse.

The state has been working to tackle the problem for several years now and have seen some success with the Prescription Safety Act of 2012. It mandates doctors to check the Controlled Substance Database before prescribing pain relievers, also known as opioids.

"The number of doctor shoppers has decreased by 50%," said Commissioner John Dreyzehner of the Department of Health.

Tuesday, the state announced they are taking it a step further with a plan called "Prescription for Success." It includes new laws, new rules for doctors, and new ways to get help.

The 89-page plan calls for seven goals.

READ: Full 89-page report (PDF)

"A complex problem demands coordinated solutions," Haslam said.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a good, comprehensive plan. A collaborative effort that's exactly what we need to tackle this epidemic," said Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch.

The first goal is to decrease the number of abusers 20% by 2018. They hope to reach the goal by increasing the number of drug coalitions from the current 37 to all 95 counties. Another recommendation includes adding media campaigns and prevention programs aimed at college campuses.

"Young Tennesseans, 18-25, are using pills at a 30% higher rate than the national average," Gov. Haslam said.

It also asks the legislature to pass a law that restricts direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drug advertisements.

The second goal is to reduce the number of deaths by overdose 20% by 2018 with a new Good Samaritan Law that would give legal protection for people trying to help when someone is overdosing.

The third goal is to draft a new set of guidelines for doctors aimed at decreasing the amount of pills they prescribe. They also plan to make technology improvements to the controlled substance monitoring database.

Nearly half of Tennessee's counties don't have permanent prescription collection box. The fourth goal aims to put one in each county.

The Department of Mental Health also wants funding and legislation to provide more quality treatment, recovery, and intervention services.

They want to introduce three more Residential Recovery Courts like the one being used in Morgan County. By placing the focus on treatment rather than punishment, they say it will cut down on repeat offenders.

"What you have and what you're seeing today is an all hands on deck to a very real and very growing problem in the state of Tennessee," Haslam said.


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