OPIOID CRISIS: Lawmakers react to the nation-wide drug epidemic
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn discussed their role in solving the nationwide opioid epidemic.
"You're right in that we have a crisis. It's a significant health challenge that we have and it's one of the reasons that we put additional funding in what we call our health care safety net, this year." Governor Bill Lee said.
Lawmakers recognize this could be an opioid problem that perhaps didn't make headlines a few years ago, now has everyone's attention.
Governor Bill Lee mentioned one of the most common ways this "addiction epidemic" has popped up on people's radar.
"I had a family member that was affected by this crisis, as many Tennessee families have. It cuts across all types of folks, all across our state. It's ravaging communities, particularly our rural communities," he said.
Senator Marsha Blackburn said help from lawmakers has to be multi-pronged and multi-jurisdictional.
"This is something that's a local state and federal partnership and nobody can solve it on their own,"
Tennessee has one of the highest prescription rates and federal agencies hope alternative pain treatment helps.
"We have had several physicians and pharmacists who have worked with HHS on how we get these numbers down,” Senator Blackburn said, “So, getting down on the prescription rates, making certain that the alternatives and the use of those are fast-tracked and that that's available to healthcare professionals. We are training some of the healthcare professionals on using alternatives. All of these are helping."
Senator Blackburn is also working to support treatment and recovery.
“In the Chattanooga area, there is an emphasis on that to be sure people have the time, once they're coming from addiction and they've been through detox and they've been through treatment, to be able to move to a recovering community," she said. "Another component of that, in dealing with the drug crisis, is to deal with a southern border."
She said the DEA and customs report Mexican drug lords are flooding the U.S. with heroin and China-made fentanyl.
Back at the state level, for Governor Lee, it's about supporting programs that will make maximum impact.
“We're working with law enforcement to strengthen the laws around and to enforce the laws around prescription distributions,” Governor Lee said, "It's something that we absolutely need to address, aggressively, in order to turn the corner and get our hands around this tremendous problem."