Tennessee’s opioid task force meets for first time Thursday

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The legislative task force formed to tackle the opioid crisis in Tennessee will hold its first meeting Thursday.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) called for the task force to address opioid and prescription drug abuse.

On Thursday the task force will hear from relatives of someone who died of drug overdose, as well as expert testimony about babies born addicted to opioids. The Knoxville police chief and a criminal court judge will also share their experiences.

Curtis Johnson (Photo: WKRN)
Curtis Johnson (Photo: WKRN)

Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) will chair the task force.

“We would like to eliminate this problem completely,” said Rep. Johnson. “But it’s so big, that we’re going to have to take steps to eventually get rid of it. Or if not get rid of it, reduce it drastically.

The statistics on opioid abuse and drug overdoses in Tennessee are staggering.

Nearly four people a day died from drug overdose in 2015 in Tennessee. That’s more than the number of people killed in car crashes in the state.

Around 72 percent of those deaths involved opioids.

(Graphic: WKRN)
(Graphic: WKRN)

Speaker Harwell said her office has been inundated with phone calls and emails from people concerned about the opioid crisis.

“It’s amazing how many families have been touched by this epidemic,” Harwell said. “And it’s all across the state, not just in the urban areas. It’s a real crisis in our rural areas as well.”

The task force will meet Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in Hearing Room 29 of Legislative Plaza.

The public is welcome to attend.