This story, originally published by WSMV, appeared Oct. 26, 2017. Copyright 2017 WSMV.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Several Tennessee lawmakers have issued statements in response to President Donald Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency.
Gov. Bill Haslam:
I appreciate the president’s efforts to call attention to the nation’s opioid crisis. We’ve been hit particularly hard in Tennessee by the opioid epidemic and anytime you have the President of the United States calling attention to an issue, it has an impact. Over the past several months, our departments have been working together to study this issue and to provide me with options for us to consider as we head into the next budget cycle and legislative session. We will prioritize addressing the opioid crisis in our state and are working toward a comprehensive plan that we will bring forward soon.
Sen. Lamar Alexander:
President Trump’s announcement today provides important leadership in helping states tackle the opioid crisis head on. Last year, 1,631 Tennesseans died of a drug overdose-12 percent more than the year before-and the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in recorded history in Tennessee. Nearly 3 out of 4 of the drug overdoses in our state are related to the opioid crisis. This is a crisis not just in Tennessee, but across the country, with 91 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose. Congress took important steps last year by passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act-which established new programs and encouraged those on the front lines to work together to combat substance abuse, especially opioid abuse-and providing $1 billion in new funding for states to fight the opioid crisis as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act. I look forward to working closely with the Trump administration to see what additional steps Congress should take to help states, doctors, and families address and solve this tragic problem.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn:
Tennesseans are no stranger to the destruction this epidemic wreaks – we cannot afford to sit idly by as it continues. It is critical that we use every weapon available to us to fight this devastating epidemic. The President’s decision to declare this a public health emergency gives states and communities more tools to address the crisis and unleashes government resources to better help those in need of help. There is more to do, but today’s announcement is an important step toward bringing this scourge to an end.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais
The opioid epidemic is a big national problem, requiring both improved addiction treatment and stronger law enforcement. The President is cracking down on Mexican and Chinese gangs that traffic in illegal heroin and deadlier fentanyl. We have to look at overreliance on legal opioid medications and prescription practices. Criminals often avoid restrictions, while legitimate patients have trouble treating pain. Reducing overdose deaths is our number one priority. Jobs and opportunity for Americans who feel left behind would help restore hope for many.
House Speaker Beth Harwell:
I applaud President Trump’s action today to combat the opioid crisis in this country. Tennessee has been particularly hard hit. I prioritized this critical issue earlier this year by forming a task force, which recently made recommendations that we will act on when we reconvene in January. This is a step in the right direction, and this is a marathon, not a sprint. The General Assembly gives the administration certain flexibilities through the budget each year. Should President Trump’s action require additional adjustments to our budget, I will be ready to meet with the governor to guarantee Tennesseans receive the maximum benefit of this effort.
Rep. Jim Cooper:
It’s about time but the President didn’t go far enough. The opioid crisis is a national emergency because it’s the leading cause of death for people under 50. The CDC has called it an epidemic since 2011. We must stop the epidemic, especially here in Tennessee.