Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in Tennessee

Like the rest of the country, Tennessee faces a crippling opioid epidemic.

Every day, at least three Tennesseans die from an opioid-related overdose. Many more come to hospital emergency rooms for care or treatment each day, which often have limited resources to support these patients in addressing their addiction.

As hospitals work with state lawmakers and officials, along with community partners and local governments, there are many opportunities to advance best practices that can reduce use and dependence on opioids. There also are ways to address community needs through partnerships, collaborations and other work with stakeholders.

THA is proud to work with member hospitals in fighting the opioid epidemic in Tennessee.

Need help? Need a referral for treatment? Call the Tennessee Redline:


Resources and Information

TN Together
In 2018, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam launched TN Together, a multi-pronged plan that included new laws to reduce the initial prescribing of opioids to patients currently not on a course of treatment. More than $30 million in state and federal funds and other executive actions have been utilized to attack the state’s opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

The TN Together website includes frequently asked questions about the new prescribing law, current data on opioids in Tennessee, fact sheets and other guidance for prescribers and healthcare professionals to use in the fight against the epidemic.

Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS)
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ (TDMHSAS) mission is to provide, plan for and promote a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, rehabilitation and recovery support services for Tennesseans with mental illness and substance abuse issues. TDMHSAS Fast Facts provides a quick overview of key statistics about TDMHSAS-funded mental health and substance abuse services in Tennessee, as well as budget and service information.

  • Crisis Services are available for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Services are available 24 hours a day by calling 855-247-7471 (855-CRISIS-1). It’s about providing the right treatment at the right time in the right place.
  • Mobile Crisis Teams and Walk-In Centers for Adults offer face-to-face, 24/7/365 evaluation for adults who are experiencing a mental health emergency. The link provides a statewide map with walk-in center addresses and phone numbers. For children under the age of 18 and experiencing a mental health emergency, please call the Statewide Crisis Line at 855-274-7471 (855-CRISIS-1).
  • Pre-Arrest Diversion Infrastructure Program received $15 million from Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly in the FY 2018 budget. The non-recurring funding was competitively bid to grantees, with a goal of supporting local communities in infrastructure development aimed at reducing or eliminating the time individuals with mental illness, substance use or co-occurring disorders spend incarcerated by redirecting them from the criminal justice system to community-based treatment and support.
  • Treatment and Recovery resources are available through many different services. This link will help identify which services would be most useful.
  • Faith-based Initiatives are providing framework for faith-based organizations across Tennessee to join in a recovery network.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treatment of substance use disorders. MAT primarily is used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The prescribed medication operates to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings and normalize body functions without the negative effects of the abused drug.
  • Peer Recovery Services are provided by trained peers who have lived experiences of mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
  • Tennessee Recovery Navigators are people in long-term recovery who can serve as an access point to treatment and recovery resources.
  • TDMHSAS Opioid Treatment and Recovery Fast Facts: In FY 2016, opioids passed alcohol as the most prevalent substance of abuse for people receiving treatment and recovery services through TDMHSAS. The linked map represents Individuals 12+ receiving TDMHSAS-funded substance abuse treatment and recovery services.

Tennessee Department of Health (TDH)
The Tennessee Department of Health’s (TDH) mission is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. In doing so, useful resources are available through links below.  

  • National Safety Council Patient Drug Card is a useful tool for patients to take to their doctor and dentist for the best non-opioid treatment options for acute pain.
  • Opioid Epidemic Response provides information on prescription drug overdose, the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database program (CSMD) and useful information collected during the Turing the Tide collaborative to prevent opioid abuse. The TDH outbreak response strategic map also is available.
  • Prescription Opioid Pain Medicines: What you need to know is a document to help educate the public on what opioids are, along with risks and side effects, storage and disposal, and other helpful information.
  • Opioid Resources are available as additional information and useful tools in fighting the opioid epidemic.
  • Tennessee Drug Overdose Data is an interactive tool that contains state, regional and county level data on fatal overdoses, nonfatal overdoses and drug prescribing.

Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation Unwanted Pharmaceutical Take Back Map is a useful map for prescription drug take-back boxes across the state. These permanent boxes prevent prescription and over-the-counter medications from getting into the hands of children and into the waterways. They make sure medications are disposed of in a safe, environmentally-friendly manner.

Anti-Drug Coalitions are in counties and communities across Tennessee and working to reduce dependence on harmful and potentially lethal substances, such as prescription drugs, alcohol and tobacco. These local efforts, funded by the state of Tennessee since 2008, help get the word out about the dangers and consequences of substance use.

Best Practices

Hospitals across Tennessee are implementing proven and innovative strategies to reduce opioid prescribing and dependence, as well as new models for care of those fighting addiction.

  • Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation Opioid Light Initiative: The Tennessee Hospital Association’s (THA) Tennessee Center for Patient Safety (TCPS) has partnered with hospitals across the state, including Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, for more than a decade to improve safety and quality of care. Baptist has strong representation on the TCPS pharmacy coalition. After learning about the Colorado opioid “light” program, the hospital decided to roll out the program in its emergency department (ED). In less than 12 months, the program is netting fantastic results.The number of ED patients receiving opioids has dropped by 50 percent, while the total number of milligrams prescribed is down 58 percent. First, Baptist began educating its clinical ED staff about options for pain relief.  ED physicians and nurse practitioners then partnered with its pharmacists and began introducing the use of other non-addictive alternatives, such as lidocaine patches and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, to patients. The program has been a huge success. In fact, some patients request opioid alternatives after learning about the consequences of frequent use.The Baptist Memorial team hopes to introduce opioid “light” to other patient units once the program results have been fully measured. (NOTE: Baptist did not develop the program, but replicated the work of Swedish Hospital in Colorado.)