(NASHVILLE) – Major legislation sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) to fight Tennessee’s opioid epidemic was signed into law today by Governor Bill Haslam. Senate Bill 2258 is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Together initiative – a three-pronged plan to combat the opioid epidemic. It addresses the law enforcement and treatment components of the plan to curb abuse, while Senate Bill 2257 addresses the prevention component.
Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from an opioid-related overdose, which is more than the number of daily traffic fatalities in the state.
“This legislation is a huge step forward in our fight to roll back Tennessee’s opioid epidemic,” said Sen. Yager, who has worked diligently to address drug abuse during his legislative tenure, including passage of a key measure cracking down on ‘pill mills’ in the state. “Every family in Tennessee has been affected in some way by drug abuse, whether it is a friend, co-worker, family member or loved one. This legislation gives law enforcement the tools they need to attack the problem, while providing more resources for treatment. I am honored to sponsor this bill for the Governor.”
The law enforcement aspect of the bill updates the classification of drugs and allows law enforcement to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs such as fentanyl – a drug up to 100 times more potent than morphine and linked to an alarming number of overdose deaths. It also requires that the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) now consult with the commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the commissioner of Health, and the Board of Pharmacy to annually revise and republish the scheduling of dangerous drugs. Previously, the TBI was not consulted in this process.
“Fentanyl is a very serious drug that is often mixed with other drugs, leading to the death of users often unaware of its potency,” added Yager. “This legislation will allow law enforcement to crack down on the use and distribution of fentanyl, which will ultimately help eliminate this deadly drug from the streets.”
The treatment aspect of the bill provides incentives for offenders in correctional facilities to complete intensive substance use treatment programs while incarcerated. An increasing number of offenders suffer from substance use disorders. These evidence-based programs are proven to reduce recidivism and improve lives while saving taxpayer dollars.
“Many of the people coming to prison have drug addictions, and if we can’t fix that problem and we let them back on the street with a drug problem, we’re likely to see them again,” remarked Yager.
“Through this multifaceted approach, Tennessee can be successful in its continued fight against the opioid epidemic and reverse the addiction, overdose and illicit distribution trends that continue to plague the state and nation,” Yager concluded.