Newsmaker No. 4 — Opioid initiative

By ALLEN MINCEY
Posted 12/28/17

The opioid epidemic has struck the nation, the state of Tennessee, and is being seen in Bradley County as well. It is so prevalent in the local area that it made the Top 10 newsmakers for 2017, at No. 4.

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Newsmaker No. 4 — Opioid initiative

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The opioid epidemic has struck the nation and the state of Tennessee, and its impact has been significant in Bradley County. It is so prevalent in the local area that it made the Top 10 newsmakers for 2017, at No. 4.

To combat this narcotics problem, the state has created an opioid task force. However, it will take more than that to battle the increase in opioids in the local area, officials say. It will take the combined populations seeing the issue, understanding the dangers, and working toward educating the public, they note.

“I look forward to all of the recommendations of the opioid task force being accepted or implemented in 2018,” said State Rep. Kevin Brooks. However, he joins others, such as the organization The Bridge, in remarking that it will need everyone to fight the drugs known as opioids

One of the people working toward battling the opioid epidemic is 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump.

“I believe that a new direction and strategy is the only hope to save lives and families,” Crump said in a 2017 interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner. “Tennessee is second in the nation in opioid prescriptions per capita, and more Tennesseans will die from overdosing that from traffic accidents or homicides. It is the most significant public safety issue in this state.”

Crump and 10th Judicial Drug Task Force Director Bill Cherry are most concerned with the use of fentanyl. They both pointed to not only overdose on the narcotic, but just the use of fentanyl, as a serious danger.

Fentanyl is classified as an opioid drug, possibly the most dangerous. However, opioid use presents serious consequences, including death.

“In 2016, 22 Bradley Countians died from an opioid overdose,” Crump said. “And through the first seven months in 2017, we have already had 18 overdoses. We are on track to nearly double the number of deaths this year.”

The DAG said that strong prosecution of opioid dealers is something his office will concentrate on, and schools and civic clubs need to increase awareness. He added that treatment is a necessary part of the solution, “and we will start looking for funding for local treatment options to help those already trapped in addiction.”

The Bridge altered its name to be ATS-The Bridge, and two of the parts of the acronym deal with issues that Crump says are important: awareness and treatment.

The third letter in the ATS acronym deals with sustainability.

The ATS-The Bridge website explains sustainability as it relates to drug and opioid usage.

“Sometimes people realize they are headed toward addiction and are able to make the decision to change directions before they reach the place of needing medical detox. In these cases, participation in a group such as Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous has proven to be extremely helpful. In other cases, people may find they need these sources following discharge from in-patient treatment. In either case, Mr. Steve Morgan can help connect each person with the appropriate group.”

Morgan, a member of the Cleveland School Board, is also a board of directors member for the ATS-The Bridge.

The organization has already implemented an anonymous tip line where people may call in suspicious activity, such as drug trafficking, and not use their name. The tip411 system is endorsed by both the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office and Cleveland Police Department.

Crump said that the “opioid initiative” consists of five components: increased prosecution for dealers, pharmaceutical company liability, working with community partners, creation of a stakeholders advisory group, and more treatment options.

In working with law enforcement, the District Attorney General said that his office will continue to punish the street dealers of opioids.


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