Tougher Laws, Stricter Prescription Limits For Opioids In Tennessee

By Maggie Ethridge 07/05/18

The state's TN Together opioid plan is a multi-faceted initiative with three areas of focus: prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

Governor Haslam signing TN Together legislation
Governor Haslam signing TN Together legislation Photo via YouTube

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam has put together a new plan to fight the opioid epidemic, called TN Together.

New laws just passed in Tennessee include policies from Governor Haslam’s plan, intended to both decrease access to opioids and to incentivize treatment for those suffering from dependence, according to WSMV News.

Beginning July 1, the laws include Henry’s Law, created by the family of Henry Granju, a teenage boy who died in east Tennessee from an opioid overdose.

Henry’s Law requires that a person convicted of second-degree murder resulting from unlawful distribution of Schedule I or II drugs where the victim is a minor be punished from within one range higher than they would normally be charged. Henry's Law creates tougher laws for people convicted of second-degree murder by distributing drugs to minors.

Henry’s mother, Katie Granju, told The Fix, “I’m a harm reduction supporter who also believes that drug-induced homicide prosecutions are vital in addressing the opioid epidemic.”

Katie Granju’s son Henry was being supplied opioids at age 18 by adult dealers before his fatal overdose. 

Tennessee will begin limiting a first opioid prescription to a five-day supply with daily dosage limits of 40 MME.

Exceptions will be made for major surgical procedures, cancer and hospice treatment, as well as treatment in certain licensed facilities.

The TN Together plan also intends to provide every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose. 

The Tennessee Municipal League states that the TN Together plan is a multi-faceted initiative with three areas of focus: prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. Haslam said the initiative will include legislation, executive actions, and task forces. 

The $37.5 billion Tennessee state budget sets aside more than $16 million to fight the opioid epidemic through additional services.

On June 29, Haslam tweeted about the bill, “My final bill signing ceremony today was an important one: the @TNTogether legislation is critical to fighting the opioid crisis in Tennessee. Thank you to the many partners across the state who will work together through this initiative to address opioid abuse.”

According to The TN Municipal League, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999; Tennessee remains one of the top 15 of all states in drug overdose deaths. 

Tennesseans are more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose than in a vehicle crash. Three people die of overdose in Tennessee each day.

“It is an epidemic. It has reached this state,” Brian Sullivan with Addiction Campuses in Nashville told WSMN News. “We believe this is a step in the right direction.”

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.