NASHVILLE — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) recently participated in a Knoxville roundtable discussion with Governor Bill Haslam, Commissioner Douglas Varney and other health care leaders regarding the widespread epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Tennessee.  Yager is the prime sponsor of several prescription drug abuse reform laws passed during the last four years, including major legislation to curb opiate misuse at pain clinics.

The meeting was part of Gov. Haslam’s “Prescription for Success” initiative launched last month to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse.  The seven-goal plan was produced by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Department of Health, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Department of Children’s Services, Department of Correction, TennCare, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Tennessee Branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

"While we have made progress, prescription drug abuse remains at epidemic levels in Tennessee,” said Senator Yager.  “This problem not only adversely affects the public health, but the public safety and our economy through loss of productivity.  This is not even speaking of the heartbreak it causes to families.  I am pleased to partner with Governor Haslam, various departments and agencies of state government, and our healthcare community to address this far-reaching problem in Tennessee.”

Prescription drug abuse is a pervasive, multi-dimensional issue impacting Tennessee individuals, families, and communities. Of the 4,850,000 adults in Tennessee, it is estimated that nearly five percent (about 221,000) have used pain relievers, also known as prescription opioids, in the past year for non-medical purposes; of those, it is estimated that 69,100 are addicted to prescription opioids and require treatment for prescription opioid abuse.

“You can ask any Tennessee sheriff about the inmates in their jails and they will tell you that drugs are overwhelmingly the cause for incarceration,” Yager added.  “It is also the number one reason that children come into state custody.  The roundtable discussion was very informative.  I look forward to providing additional tools to fight this scourge through new legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.”

“The abuse of prescription drugs, specifically opioids, is an epidemic in Tennessee, with disastrous and severe consequences to Tennesseans of every age,” Commissioner Varney said. “Things such as overdose deaths, emergency department visits, hospital costs, children in state custody, and people incarcerated for drug-related crimes can all be prevented and/or treated if we all work together and fight this deadly epidemic.”