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Alexander: Tennessee to Get “Big Boost” in Fight Against Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic Affecting About 5 Percent of Tennesseans

Says $3.4 million grant to Tennessee will help state monitor for prescription painkiller abuse, fight prescription drug abuse in high-risk communities

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 “Tennessee has been working hard to fight this fast-growing drug problem, but we are losing more than a thousand Tennesseans a year to drug overdose." Lamar Alexander 


KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 4 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Tennessee will get a “big boost” in its fight against prescription drug abuse, an epidemic affecting about five percent of Tennesseans. The state ranks third in the nation for prescription drug abuse and 12th in the nation for deaths resulting from drug overdose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced that Tennessee will receive $3.4 million over four years from the agency to help the state continue its work combatting prescription drug abuse and overdose. Tennessee is one of 16 states to receive funding under the agency’s Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States program.

“Tennessee has been working hard to fight this fast-growing drug problem, but we are losing more than a thousand Tennesseans a year to drug overdoses,” said Alexander. “This is an epidemic that cuts across all demographics, with about five percent of Tennesseans abusing prescription painkillers and the majority of those individuals getting drugs from a friend or relative.”

He continued, “This $3.4 million grant will allow the state to improve its programs to monitor prescription painkiller use, fight prescription drug abuse in the hardest-hit communities, and spread information to doctors who are prescribing these drugs.”

Alexander made his remarks at a roundtable he hosted this morning where CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden made the grant announcement. They were joined by Chief Medical Officer for the Tennessee Department of Health Dr. David Reagan and local officials.

“A growing epidemic is gripping our country – deaths due to opioid overdose,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Nearly 150,000 Americans have died from prescription drug overdoses in the past decade, and Tennessee has been hit especially hard.  We can protect Americans and help reverse this epidemic by providing states the tools and resources they need to use real-time prescription tracking to increase safer prescribing.”

“Tennessee has one of the highest rates of controlled substance abuse in the nation,” said Dr. Reagan. “This grant will allow us to further enhance our prescription drug monitoring program, reduce adverse events related to opioids in our Workers Compensation program, provide better county-specific information, and evaluate the effect of recent Tennessee legislation to curb opioid abuse. This will help reduce the morbidity and mortality of prescription drug use in Tennessee.”

The grant announced today from the CDC will help Tennessee continue its work fighting prescription drug abuse and overdose by supporting:

· Enhancements to Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database Program, a statewide database that monitors the dispensing of controlled substances, such as opioids;

·Supporting appropriate use of opioids for patients who need them, including through the dissemination of information on managing pain for health care providers who prescribe opioids;

· Prevention efforts throughout the state and in communities with a high incidence of prescription drug use; and

·“Rapid response projects” to address new and emerging problems related to prescription drug overdose.

Today’s roundtable participants included CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, Chief Medical Officer for the Tennessee Department of Health Dr. David Reagan, Director of Knox County Health Department Dr. Martha Buchanan, Dr. Randal Dabbs and Mr. Austin Maxwell.

Alexander held the event to discuss ways public health officials, health care providers, law enforcement, and families can work together to reverse the prescription drug abuse epidemic in Tennessee and throughout the country. 

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For access to this release and Chairman Alexander’s other statements, click here.