Governor announced comprehensive plan to end Tennessee’s opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic in Tennessee is a crisis that knows no boundaries and impacts many Tennesseans regardless of race, income, gender or age.

Gov. Bill Haslam made that statement last week when he, along with leadership from the House and Senate and Chief Justice Jeff Bivens, announced an aggressive and comprehensive plan to end the opioid epidemic in Tennessee by focusing on three major components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

“Our approach will be aggressive with provisions to limit the supply of opioids and significant state and federal dollars to provide treatment to those in need,” Haslam said. “I applaud the collaboration and the considerable work of the House and Senate on the TN Together plan, as well as the judicial branch’s leadership through the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative and National Opioid Task Force, and I ask all stakeholders around this issue to work together to achieve real reform and action that will save lives.”

TN Together, a multi-faceted initiative that addresses the issue of opioid addiction through legislation, proposed funding in the governor’s 2018-19 budget and  executive actions, has been designed in partnership with the General Assembly through the Ad Hoc Opioid Abuse Task Force established by Speaker Beth Harwell and chaired by Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson and a working group established by Haslam that includes Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s appointee, Speaker Pro Tem Ferrell Haile.

Under the components, Haslam issued an executive order establishing a special commission to formulate current, evidenced-based pain and addiction medicine competencies for adoption by the state’s medical and health care practitioner schools.

The commission on Pain and Addiction Medicine Education is charged to address proper treatment for pain, safe and effective prescribing practices, and proper diagnoses and treatment for individuals abusing or misusing controlled substances. Once developed, the competencies shall be available for adoption by Tennessee’s medical educational institutions for best-in-class training for Tennessee’s future doctors, nurses, dentists and other prescribers.

“To be clear, this is not us telling medical and health care practitioner schools what their curriculum will be. This is a group of professionals from that field who will come together and design what competencies should be developed around evidence-based pain and addiction management,” Haslam said.

The commission will develop competencies for current and future curricula so that future prescribers receive instruction and training regarding, at a minimum: effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, including alternatives to opioids to manage pain; the potential risks and effects of using opioids to treat pain, including physical dependency and addiction, and effective discontinuation of opioids; proper identification of and treatment for patients demonstrating misuse or abuse of opioids; and utilization of the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database.

The commission consists of 19 members, appointed by the governor, that include representation from the state’s public and private medical educational institutions, the Tennessee Department of Health, a broad group of  professional associations, and licensed health care practitioners.

More details on the TN Together plan, including help for those suffering from addiction and other resources, can be found at

Wanda Southerland
Contributor to The News