NASHVILLE- Leaders of Tennessee’s legislative delegation today praised the plan presented by Governor Bill Haslam to combat the state’s opioid crisis. The proposal features a three-pronged approach that focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Democratic leaders today said the plan is a step in the right direction, but add the most effective thing Tennessee lawmakers can do to combat the crisis is to pass Medicaid expansion in the state.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart said, “I applaud the Governor for his efforts, however, we all know that he’s hamstrung by the Republican super majority in the state legislature and their continued efforts to serve as a roadblock to his Insure Tennessee plan. Tennesseans deserve access to the treatment programs that can only happen with expanded coverage.”
“Tennessee is drowning in opioids, and it’s having a generational impact that’s literally changing the trajectory of communities,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Jeff Yarbro said. “This is no time for a standard-issue, incremental plan. We should treat the opioid epidemic like the public health crisis it is. We’re either going to send people to doctors or dealers. And it seems clear that we’re leaving Medicaid expansion dollars on the table and making some easier political choices at the expense of getting more Tennesseans into the treatment everyone knows is desperately needed.”
“I stand with anyone who wants to fight the opioid crisis, but by not expanding Medicaid, we are fighting with our hands tied,” added House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Opioid related emergency visits increased nearly 100 percent between 2000 and 2014 (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, WWW.kff.org). Expanding Medicaid-eligible population coverage to help battle their addictions.”
Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris added, “With overdose deaths on the rise, last year Leader Fitzhugh and I passed legislation requiring those treated for an opioid overdose to be taken to the hospital. We have seen over and over again that people need actual treatment to fight this horrible addiction. In 2016, Shelby County lost 150 lives from drug overdoses involving opioids. Our bill was one small step to combat this very real problem, but on that could save lives.”