Tennesseans are pausing this last day of August with people around the world to remember, reflect and recover from the effects of overdose.
The state departments of Health and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, community partners, people in recovery from addiction, people who have survived overdose and people who have lost loved ones are marking the day with remembrance, training and encouragement with the goal of reducing the number of Tennesseans tragically lost to overdose each year.
Events include virtual trainings and physically-distanced distribution of naloxone by the state's Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists. Since October 2017, this program operated by TDMHSAS through grants to substance abuse prevention coalitions has distributed more than 160,000 units of Narcan, which have resulted in more than 16,000 lives saved from opioid overdose. ROPS have also reached more than 125,000 Tennesseans through public awareness, anti-stigma and harm reduction trainings.
Recent data underscore the continuing need for these lifesaving efforts. Sadly, the state's overall number of deadly overdoses continues to rise, and the trend has continued in recent months as the state has confronted the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 2,089 Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses in 2019, a 15 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2018. Tennessee also saw increases in overdose deaths associated with opioids, fentanyl and stimulants in 2019.
"We mourn for the families of Tennesseans lost to addiction and overdose, and commit to continuing our work to end overdose in our state," said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. "Resources are available for individuals and families to learn how they can be part of the solution and save lives."
COVID-19 has created challenges for people living with risky substance use or substance use disorder. Additional stress, anxiety, economic hardship and other impacts of the pandemic may have worsened preexisting conditions or helped cause new ones. Tennessee's community-based treatment and recovery providers have adapted to challenges and continue to provide life-changing and life-saving treatment.
"It is tragic and true that we are losing too many of our neighbors to overdose, but our state also has countless people who care and want to make a change for good," said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. "Please reach out to someone living with substance use, encourage them, be a light to them, show them that there is hope and help available."
Call or text the TN REDLINE at 800-889-9789 for free referral to addiction treatment services.