This story, originally published by the Cleveland Daily Banner, appeared Feb. 10, 2018. Copyright 2018 Cleveland Daily Banner.
Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from an opioid-related overdose.
That statistic and more were shared during Friday’s Opioid Epidemic Summit hosted by Cleveland District 3 Councilman Tom Cassada and featuring 10th Judicial District Attorney General Stephen D. Crump.
The event was held at the Museum Center at 5ive Points and drew an audience including state legislators and other elected officials, law enforcement officers and others in the community interested in helping end the opioid epidemic.
“This is a subject close to everyone living and breathing in the United States today,” said Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland in welcoming the audience, adding Crump has taken a leadership role “to try to get to the source of the problem.”
Crump said there is “a continuum of opioid use” that affects 1 million Tennesseans, or 1 in 7 people who live in the state. He said 1.3 opioid prescriptions are written for every person in Bradley County, and last year 7.8 million opioid prescriptions were written in Tennessee.
“The thing we have to understand is that opioids do not cure any condition,” Crump said. “They don’t make anything better — they just make you think it’s better.”
Opioids work by changing the chemistry, structure and operation of the brain, he said.
“Opioids are meant for end-of-life scenarios … it was meant for hospice, it was not a first-course treatment,” he said.
Crump noted opioid abuse is a national crisis, but Tennessee — particularly the 10th Judicial District’s counties of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Meigs — is especially hard-hit.
Opioid addiction has “innocent beginnings” for many people: Someone twists their knee and, seeking treatment for the pain, they are prescribed an opioid. Crump said everyone is at risk because anyone can become addicted to opioids, even after only three- to five-pill doses.
Crump added he realizes there are people who unintentionally become addicts, but there are also people looking to profit off this epidemic. It is a practice he is looking to end.
Increasingly, opioids are brought to this area by carriers from Detroit who are targeting high school and college students.
“We have to focus fundamentally on the children of our community,” Crump said. “We’ve got to save this generation.”
To spread that effort, Crump asked everyone in attendance at the summit to help spread the word by texting “Not One More” to someone they know and to explain it means not one more young person will die because of opioids.
“Then ask that person to text ‘Not One More’ to someone else” to keep the message going, he said.
Crump also reviewed Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed TN Together, a $30 million plan to end the opioid crisis in Tennessee. The plan focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
Taking questions and comments from the audience, Steve Morgan, a member of the Cleveland Board of Education, announced his plans to open a bank account where private donations can be made to build a treatment center in Bradley County “so we will have buy-in from our community, individual buy-in.”
For more information on the TN Together plan, including help for those suffering from addiction and other resources, visit tn.gov/opioids.