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How Possible Tennessee Governors Would Use Opioid Litigation Money

August 24, 2018


States across the nation are drowning in debt for several different reasons, however, one of the top causes of that debt is the opioid epidemic.

Tennessee, which is one of the most hardly-hit by the opioid epidemic, spends approximately $400 million a year on hospitalizations related to opioid abuse. And, over one billion dollars is lost in productivity due to the amount of people who are unemployed because of their opioid addiction.

Now, however, Tennessee is on the verge of being awarded a large sum of money from a potential settlement between the state and drug makers in relation to the opioid epidemic. As a result, the next governor of the deep-south state could potentially be in charge of dispersing that money.

Normally, a governor with money from a legal settlement would not be overly questioned in regards to how he or she will disperse it, however, that is not the case for the six candidates currently running for governor of Tennessee. This is because, in 1998, a similar settlement was reached between the state and tobacco companies, but an extremely small portion of that money went into aiding the public in quitting smoking or helping tobacco farmers find new goods to produce. Therefore, there is great concern that the money that may be awarded to the state will go to other things that do not pertain to the crisis.

Nashville Public Radio took it upon themselves to ask each gubernatorial candidate what he or she plans on doing with this potential settlement and was met with a number of different answers.

Candidate Responses

Probably one of the most important things to consider when voting for a governor is what his or her stance is on opioid use disorder and the treatment of it. Being that the opioid epidemic is now a nationwide crisis, much weight is put into what a future governor thinks might be ways to rectify this problem.

Congressman Diane Black (R) was apprehensive to state just how much of this money she would use for addiction treatment, saying that, “I don’t know that I would at this point in time tell you that I would dedicate it all to one source”. She believes that there is a possibility that instead of all the money going towards treatment, that it might need to be dispersed through other means, such as law enforcement for “what they’re doing in the field to help to prevent illicit drugs from coming into our state”.

Randy Boyd (R) confidently stated that he would “put it in recovery and prevention”. His main focus is to educate the public about opioids and the risks of using them, as well as to help those who need recovery resources. He states that “we have got to use that money to invest in recovery. Today, the largest place in the state for recovery for addiction is in our jails. We have to do a better job”.

Former Mayor of Nashville Karl Dean (D) took a more conservative approach, stating that “obviously there’s certain things that you would consider such as treatment and education-related things, but it’s something I would need to think a lot more carefully about before weighing in”.

Craig Fitzhugh (D) reiterated the concern that many people have about the money from this possible settlement, as he stated that the money from the settlement for tobacco farmers “was supposed to go to help them get new crops and do things, and it didn’t. It went to the general fund because we were having budgetary problems”. He did wrap up his answer by saying that any money awarded through this settlement should go to help the opioid epidemic.

Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell (R) drove home where she wants the money to go. “I would commit that it would go there (opioid epidemic). I mean, rehabilitation is a costly proposition for our state. It’s one we have to properly address,” she added. However, different from the other candidates, she also stated that “what would be even better is if the pharmaceutical company would step forward and voluntarily help us fund some of this rehabilitation”.

Bill Lee (R), similar to Beth Harwell, also believes that pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to help rectify the opioid crisis. He also states that “you know I wouldn’t say what I would do with that money until I knew how much it was and what the actual settlement is going to look like”. In addition, he added that “I certainly think we’ve got to invest in treatment programs.”

opioid epidemic

What Does This All Mean?

This whole conversation is incredibly important to not only the people of Tennessee but also for other states that are looking on. Tennessee very well might have the potential to lead the charge in how spending should go in regards to the opioid crisis. If they enact a plan that will help the many different areas of concern with the epidemic, others may follow suit.

Thankfully, each candidate, regardless of what side of the aisle they are on, seems to agree that this money cannot go to anything else but the opioid epidemic. What seems to be disagreed upon is where that money should go. While some candidates are full force to put that money into treatment and prevention, others are more inclined to spread out the money as a better means of attacking this huge problem.

Do You Need Treatment?

Even though a significant amount of controversy still surrounds addiction, whether it pertains to how it’s being treated or what money should go where, if you are currently addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, you can get help.

Contact the professionals at our residential treatment facility right now. We can help you address the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of your addiction in ways that guide you towards long-term, successful recovery. You do not need to keep using – you have the power to make the decision to get help. Call us today.

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