Doctors descend on Capitol Hill with Tennessee’s opioid crisis in mind

Photo: WKRN

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An army of 300 Tennessee doctors descended on Nashville’s Legislative Plaza Tuesday with the state’s opioid crisis at the top of their agenda.

“It’s what we are talking about and what lawmakers are talking to us about, ” said Dr. James Batson, who is Chairman of the Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) Board of Trustees.

His TMA group made up the bulk of the doctors who filled hallways and legislative offices Tuesday in their distinctive white coats.

Dr. Batson, who is pediatrician in Cookeville on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, said he is in favor of a measure being considered in the legislature that would identify as much as the top 20-percent of Tennessee physicians who prescribe opioids.

“Florida had a big crackdown on their top prescribers, and they left the state, and I think they all came to Tennessee,” he added.

Dr. James Batson (Photo: WKRN)

The bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Sabi Kumar, who is also physician in Robertson County.

He told News 2 that education and counseling for the top prescribing medical practitioners are the key components of the bill.

Kumar said it should begin by asking questions like what are the alternatives to opioids? What else could I have done for this patient than give them this prescription.

He said the second part of the education component of the bill is “to tell [practitioners] about consequences of over-prescribing opioids and what it is doing to life and society.”

The lawmaker and doctor say prescribers would learn about that in a two-hour class detailed in the bill.

Kumar also wants literature about opioid hazards placed in doctor’s office for patients to read and learn from as well.

“That I think is targeted marketing.” he told News 2. “Put literature in place where those whose lives are affected would see it.”

It’s one of many bills scheduled to be considered this session on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill where the state has been called by House Speaker Beth Harwell as “the epicenter of the opioid crisis in America.”

Dr. Batson, the Cookeville pediatrician, hopes the crisis is peaking in Tennessee because of things like the controlled substance data base that went into effect as a collaboration of doctors and law enforcement a few years ago.

“Its put a big dent in doctor shopping where patients would go from one doctor to another and there was not communication,” added Dr. Batson. “Now you can look up on that data base and see where prescriptions are coming from so you can put an end to it.”