Federal funding would be used to expand treatment for opioid use disorders

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is optimistic it will receive as much as $24 million dollars over the next two years to expand treatment options for Tennesseans struggling with an addiction to prescription pain killers and other opioid-based narcotics.

Administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the anticipated funds are part of President Obama’s $1.1 billion expansion of opioid treatment. The effort is aimed to help Americans, who want treatment, to once and for all beat their addiction.

“Tennesseans are hurting,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “These additional resources would have the potential to help thousands of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors struggling with an addiction, and get the treatment and counseling they desperately need.”

Prescription opioids are the number one most abused substance in Tennessee. In 2015 more than 30% of those surveyed acknowledged their use of prescription pain relievers. The rate of prescription opioid use in Tennessee is significantly higher than the national average and drug poisoning deaths in the state also surpass the U.S. average.

With the potential infusion of federal money, qualified physicians would have the opportunity to increase the number of patients they can treat through a combination of FDA-approved buprenorphine treatment and counseling. The dual approach is designed to provide a whole-patient experience by changing an individual’s behavior and treating their opioid dependency.

“Under the care and supervision of qualified physicians, we are hopeful that more Tennesseans who want treatment will get it and end their substance use addiction,” said Commissioner Varney. “Buprenorphine treatment along with counseling represents the latest advance in what we call medication-assisted treatment. By addressing the whole person and not just dispensing more narcotics, we look at this as a real chance for Tennesseans to beat their opioid addiction for good.”

Tennessee’s anticipated funding amount to expand buprenorphine treatment is ultimately dependent on action by the U.S. Congress, the strength of the state’s application and the strategy to combat the opioid epidemic.