The University of Tennessee Medical Center implemented several new measures today aimed at helping patients who come to the facility with an IV infection that’s due to drug abuse. The pilot program launched at the medical center includes a specific set of protocols created to tackle a portion of the opioid abuse epidemic that’s impacting the nation and the East Tennessee region.


“While we may have a very small number of patients who fall into this category at any given time, we recognize we have the opportunity to help one individual at a time impacted by the opioid epidemic plaguing our state and our country,” said Dr. Jerry Epps, senior vice president and chief medical officer at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. “To provide that assistance, we’re implementing measures to put opioid dependent individuals on the path to recovery, while also providing the optimal care environment for our physicians and team members to begin that treatment. We anticipate that some will question the measures, but must emphasize that their purpose is, first and foremost, for the benefit of the patients.”


The rules, according to Epps, are clear. Even before being admitted, a patient must sign a form agreeing to all components of the medical center’s IV Drug Use Associated Infection Plan of Care. Epps says the goal of the new protocols is to establish a framework that initially focuses on treating the infection, but later provides access to treating the addiction. Officials from the medical center are working with other agencies in the region to identify, whenever possible, specialized inpatient addiction treatment facilities where patients can transfer once their medical care has concluded.


“We’ve all seen and heard too many stories of those in our community losing their lives and of the adverse impact on families due to this terrible addiction,” said Joe Landsman, president and CEO of The University of Tennessee Medical Center. “As the region’s academic medical center, we have an obligation to take a leadership role in addressing and seeking solutions for serious health-related matters facing our community, such as the opioid epidemic.”


The mission of The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the region’s only hospital to achieve status as a Magnet® recognized organization, is to serve through healing, education and discovery. UT Medical Center, a 609-bed, not-for-profit academic medical center, serves as a referral center for Eastern Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky and Western North Carolina. The medical center, the region’s only Level I Trauma Center, is one of the largest employers in Knoxville. For more information about The University of Tennessee Medical Center, visit online at