The opioid crisis in Southeast Tennessee brought together community leaders and state legislators from the four counties of the Tenth Judicial District on Friday.
The Opioid Epidemic Summit was held at the Museum Center at 5ive Points, hosted by Cleveland District 3 Councilman Tom Cassada and featuring 10th Judicial District Attorney General Stephen D. Crump.
After detailing the alarming growth rate of opioid related deaths and addictions in the region, Crump made a special request. Send a text message to people you know that simply states “Not One More.” Ask the recipients to do the same, Crump requested.
The aim is to start conversations across the district about an epidemic that threatens everyone regardless of economic status, age or gender, he said.
About a million Tennesseans, or one out of every seven, is at risk of opioid death or addiction, Crump said. Last year in Bradley County, Crump said, there were 143,000 opioid prescriptions written in a population of 105,000 people.
“The thing we have to understand is that opioids do not cure any condition. They don’t make anything better. They make you think it’s better,” Crump said. To do that, he said, opioids change the chemicals, structure and operation of the brain.
Crump reviewed Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed TN Together, a plan to end the opioid crisis in Tennessee.
He also introduced an opioid initiative for the judicial district as well. That initiative includes: prosecutions of “street dealers”; working closely with the federal Opioid Fraud And Abuse Detection Unit; pursuing health care providers who are illegally prescribing; joining other district attorneys general in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that violate the law; working with local partners to create a coalition to educate and to raise public awareness; create an advisory panel of health care providers, educators, law enforcement and the public and advocating funding options for treatment centers.
Councilman Cassada said the Friday summit grew out of conversations he has had with Crump about the epidemic locally.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, what gender you are or color you are “Cassada said. “This is something that affects us all.”