Doctors Rally To Raise Opioid Awareness At Tennessee Capitol

By Victoria Kim 03/10/17

The physicians gathered on Capitol Hill to talk about policies, laws and other strategies that could positively impact the opioid crisis.

Doctors talking.

Around 300 physicians gathered at the State Capitol in Nashville on Tuesday (March 7) to bring awareness to Tennessee’s problem with opioid abuse. 

Donning their white coats, the doctors congregated inside legislative offices ready to talk about state efforts to alleviate the crisis, WKRN reported. 

The state is searching for answers. Last November, data from the Tennessee Department of Health showed that a record-breaking 1,451 Tennesseans died of drug overdose in 2015. Of those deaths, 72% involved opioids, which was helped by rising fentanyl use.

House Speaker Beth Harwell called Tennessee “the epicenter of the opioid crisis in America.” Dr. James Batson, a pediatrician and president of the Tennessee Medical Association, says doctors from out of state may be to blame. “Florida had a big crackdown on their top prescribers, and they left the state, and I think they all came to Tennessee,” he said. 

One piece of legislation that’s being considered by state lawmakers would identify the top 20% of opioid prescribers in the state. The bill’s supporters say education and counseling are a major part of the proposal. 

In a two-hour class, the state’s top prescribers would reflect on their prescribing behavior and explore questions like, what alternatives could have been offered to patients other than opioids? They’d also learn about the “consequences of overprescribing opioids and what it is doing to life and society,” said Rep. Sabi Kumar, the bill’s sponsor in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Giving patients access to information in the doctor’s office about the risks of using prescription opioids is another important step toward raising awareness, said the state representative. “That I think is targeted marketing. Put literature in place where those whose lives are affected would see it,” said Kumar, who is also a doctor. 

Dr. Batson says that so far, having the state’s prescription drug monitoring database has been helpful in keeping opioid overprescribing at bay. “It’s put a big dent in doctor shopping where patients would go from one doctor to another and there was no communication,” said Batson. “Now you can look up on that database and see where prescriptions are coming from so you can put an end to it.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr