The impact of Tennessee’s opioid crisis is having a devastating impact on families, government, law enforcement, and employers.From babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, caregivers and veterans fallen to opioids, increases in suicides and opioid related deaths, or the entrenchment of pill mills in our communities, the opioid crisis is being felt by everyone across the state.
United We Heal Tennessee is our statewide response to the opioid crisis, compassionately helping those currently in need while proactively addressing the roots of the problem. Through our 34 member United Ways and strong partnerships with afterschool programs through the TN Afterschool Network (Afterschool Heals Tennessee), as well as schools, nonprofits, government, and businesses, we are taking many proven practices statewide: drug take-back events; corporate assistance and support; public education; anti-stigma campaigns; tools for seniors on storing and disposing of medications; training in ACES (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma-informed care; as well as preventive interventions and social and emotional support for children and youth.
United Ways of Tennessee have made opioid education, prevention, and understanding a corner stone in our work against this epidemic. Contact Mary Graham at (615) 495-9970 for more information.
How Big is the Problem?
Tennessee is one of the states most deeply impacted by our national opioid crisis. Our state experienced 1,186 overdose deaths in 2016; 13,034 non-fatal overdose outpatient visits in 2015; and 7,092 non-fatal overdoes inpatient stays in 2015. In 2017, 6,879,698 painkiller prescriptions were filled in Tennessee, and we only have 6,716,000 people living in the state.
A joint Community Needs Assessment conducted by the United Way of Knoxville and the University of Tennessee recently identified substance abuse as the #1 concern in that region, echoing results from similar assessments across the state.
Between 2010 and 2015, the incidence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) infants born with substance addictions due to exposure in the womb among enrollees in TennCare (Medicaid) more than doubled from a rate of 11 per 1,000 live births to 24 per 1,000. Kingsport is currently struggling to address the highest incidence of NAS births in both the state and the nation.
How Does United We Heal Work?
With United We Heal Tennessee, we are employing resources to encourage access to treatment, to build protective factors for children and youth, and to expand the role schools and community-based organizations can play in prevention and helping families recover.
We believe it’s critical to take a comprehensive approach that includes compassionately aiding those currently in need while proactively identifying and addressing causal factors. This includes (1) interventions and support for those suffering or recovering from opioid use, and (2) education and preventive interventions for children, youth, and their families.
United We Heal Tennessee will go statewide with solutions that have already proven themselves effective in various locations. These include: providing information and tools for safe storage of medications;holding drug take-back events; launching corporate and public education campaigns to reduce stigma and encourage those in need to seek help; providing information and tools to at-risk seniors; building coalitions that include health, social services, criminal justice and faith partners; providing support to our corporate partners to enable them to better support employees in need of services, mentoring, and other supports; and training in ACES (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma-informed care for afterschool programs,teachers and others who work with youth.