KINGSPORT – Northeast Tennessee Republican lawmakers pledged at a Regional Legislative Breakfast on Friday to address a plan to combat the opioid crisis.
“We do have the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and that’s the opioid crisis,” state Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said at the breakfast held at the MeadowView Marriott. “It impacts families and every one of us … to attract and retain workers … it’s going to be like the bath salts issue we dealt with some time ago. It’s going to take all of us.”
Last Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam rolled out his administration’s “TN Together” $30 million plan for the crisis, which included: legislation to limit the supply and the dosage of opioid prescriptions; limiting coverage for TennCare enrollees to an initial five-day supply with daily dosage limits; 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; investing more than $25 million for treatment and recovery services for individuals with opioid use disorder; attacking the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids by providing additional resources to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for rapid response teams; and providing every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Mountain States Health Alliance President and CEO Alan Levine noted one of the commitments of his system’s anticipated merger with Wellmont Health System was to develop a residential addiction treatment campus. “It will become a destination location for treatment,” he pointed out.
Lawmakers also had this to say at the breakfast:
State Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport:
“We have the best delegation there is at the state level … we truly do like each other … since 2011 the General Assembly through conservative leadership, we’ve created over 400,000 new jobs … we have the lowest debt per capita of any other state … we have the lowest overall taxes of any state.”
State Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport:
“They tell me all the time, ‘You need to think before you speak’ and I always say ‘I don’t want to do that.’ I like to be just as surprised by what I say.”
State Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville:
“What I don’t ever what to do is follow Bud because he is a hard act to follow … the opioid issue is one we’re going to attack. We’re not going to just bump up against it.”
State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville:
“(The opioid issue) has been devastating … friends are dying among us. Every week, there’s somebody I went to school with who’s dying way too young … it seems like every five years it’s the next drug we’re having to fight … one of the most important facets (of Haslam’s plan) is the treatment. We need to break the cycle.”