NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has joined the fight to address the state’s opioid epidemic. The university recently implemented a new overdose prevention program to stop deaths associated with misuse and addiction.
Under the initiative, certified TSU police officers will be able to administer NARCAN Nasal Spray, a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid emergency, such as an overdose. The initiative is in conjunction with Nashville Prevention, a division of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
“Our goal at the TSU Police Department is to minimize the likelihood that someone on our campus dies from an overdose of opiates,” said Aerin Washington, TSUPD’s crime prevention officer. “We want to be on the cutting edge of this movement as we strive to serve the community in every aspect that we can.”
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin, as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2015, two million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 591,000 had a disorder involving heroin, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
TSU health experts say the university’s overdose prevention program falls in line with other preventive measures being used nationally to address the opioid crisis.
“This is one of the safe and effective methods of overdose prevention that is saving lives and supporting addiction recovery,” said Dr. Wendelyn Inman, associate professor of public health, healthcare administration and health services at TSU.
“As first responders on TSU’s campus, trained officers can be the difference between a fatal outcome and a survivor.”
Earlier this week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced an aggressive and comprehensive plan to end the opioid epidemic in Tennessee by focusing on three major components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Called TN Together, the plan includes providing every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone (NARCAN) for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Dr. Charles Brown, also an assistant professor in public health at TSU, said the opioid epidemic is impacting people from all walks of life.
“It’s a drug that’s just not impacting the poor, but it’s also impacting the middle class and the healthy class as well,” he said. “It’s very important to understand the abuse from that standpoint. It can happen to anyone.”
In Tennessee, roughly 300,000 people are misusing drugs and about 82,000 of them are addicted, according to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The opioid problem claimed 1,186 lives in Tennessee through overdoses in 2016, which amounts to 17.8 people per 100,000, the state Department of Health says.
For more information about TN Together, including help for those suffering from addiction and other available resources, visit https://www.tn.gov/opioids.
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