(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – July 1 marks the enactment of 153 new laws in Tennessee, including major legislation sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) to curb opiate abuse. The new law, which is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Together initiative, seeks to prevent opioid addiction, and ultimately, misuse and abuse by limiting the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions with emphasis on new patients.
“At least three people die each day in Tennessee from an opioid-related drug overdose,” said Senator Haile, a pharmacist who served on Governor Bill Haslam’s Opioid Abuse Task Force. “We must stop the pipeline, especially on opioid naïve patients, to prevent addiction. The purpose behind the prevention legislation is to place more speed bumps on the road that leads to addiction.”
Haile said the legislation is meant to address higher dosages of opioids which have been associated with increased risk of overdose and death, while including exceptions for individuals undergoing extreme pain. He also said the new law helps prevent unused opiates from ending up in the family medicine cabinet where they are often abused. Research shows 27 percent of those who are at the highest risk of overdose get opioids from their physician, while 26 percent receive them for free from their family or friends. This includes up to 80 percent of teenagers who begin abusing drugs by getting them from family members.
The other half of the TN Together legislation allows the state to better track, monitor and penalize the use and distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs. That new law, which Haile co-sponsored, also provides incentives for offenders to complete treatment programs while incarcerated.
Another key bill sponsored by Haile and set for enactment on July 1, makes adoption easier in Tennessee.
“As an adoptive parent, adoption is very close to my heart,” said Sen. Haile. “This new law will help clarify Tennessee’s adoption law and make it easier for children to be adopted into loving homes.”
The legislation simplifies the document that parents sign before a judge releases a child for adoption. It also clarifies grounds for termination of parental rights, including making Tennessee law consistent with U.S. Supreme Court cases when it involves absentee fathers who have taken no steps to pursue a parental relationship. The new law further calls for elimination of the six-month prior residency requirement for adoption petitioners and expands the opportunity for active duty military personnel to use Tennessee as their state of legal residence to adopt children, regardless of where they are stationed.
Haile said state officials are working with a group called Family Match, which is a website that deals with compatibility matching technology for families in state care. Tennessee has been offered access to Family Match’s network services created exclusively for state workers to match adoptive families, foster families, and foster to adopt families with children in state care.
“This will inspire even greater confidence in prospective resource families, opening the door for more families to become foster and adoptive families,” he concluded.