MARYVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today signed legislation to support TN Together, the governor's aggressive and comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis in Tennessee through three key areas - prevention, treatment and law enforcement.
"This legislation is a major step in helping fight this epidemic by limiting the supply of opioids and providing resources to provide treatment for those addicted," Haslam said in a ceremonial bill signing at the Blount Memorial Hospital. "I am proud to sign the TN Together legislation today and I thank the members of the 110th General Assembly for their commitment to addressing this crisis. Opioid addition affects the entire state in some form, and with this comprehensive plan I feel confident that we can make a difference in the lives of Tennesseans."
The first piece of the TN Together legislation (HB1831/SB 2257) focuses on prevention and treatment and was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) and Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville). The bill limits the duration and dosage of opioid prescriptions for new patients, with reasonable exceptions for major surgical procedures and exemptions that include cancer and hospice treatment, sickle cell disease as well as treatment in certain licensed facilities. With initial opioid prescriptions limited to a 3-day supply, Tennessee will have one of the most strict and aggressive opioid policies in the nation.
The second piece of legislation (HB1832/SB2258) in the TN Together comprehensive plan addresses the law enforcement component and was sponsored by Norris, Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville). The bill creates incentives for offenders to complete intensive substance use treatment programs while incarcerated and updates the schedule of controlled substances to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of opioids. Notably, it adds synthetic versions of the drug fentanyl, linked to an alarming number of overdose deaths, to the controlled substance schedules.
Along with the legislative action, as part of TN Together, Haslam issued an executive order to establish 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. The commission will release the recommended competencies late this summer.
Additionally, the 2018-19 budget includes more than $16 million in new state dollars to fund treatment and services in the fight against opioid addiction.