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Posted on Friday, July 27, 2018 at 9:00 am

Opioid abuse in Grundy County

1,631 people died from a drug overdose in 2016, greater than the combined deaths from traffic accidents and murder.


A growing tragedy

The opioid crisis can be measured in many different ways, the excessive number of prescriptions – Tennessee ranks 49thamong the states in the number of opioid prescriptions per person. Another grim statistic is that almost 37,000 different people were treated at a Tennessee hospital for opioid substance abuse or poisoning in 2016.

But it is the rapid increase in overdose deaths that illustrates the tragic nature of opioid abuse.

Since 2011 the number of people dying from a drug overdose, almost all from some form of opioids, has increased a staggering 154 percent. Deaths in traffic accidents increased almost 11 percent, and the number of people murdered is up 25 percent.

Call for action

In his last budget, Haslam proposed a comprehensive approach to stemming the crisis, which he label TN Together: Ending the opioid crisis.

The governor proposed that initial opioid prescriptions be limited to a five-day supply, with daily dosage amounts also limited. He asked that sentences be reduced for inmates who complete an intensive substance use treatment program. And he proposed updated controlled substance schedules to improve tracking, monitoring and penalties for distribution of some controlled substances, particularly fentanyl.

Taking a cue from the highway safety sign program, the governor wants to increase education about substance abuse in Tennessee schools and implement a public awareness campaign about the potential dangers of opioid use.

What will new leaders do?

Opioid abuse, murder, and traffic accidents dominate the headlines of public safety and obscure the many moving parts that must be addressed to improve the health and wellbeing of Tennesseans, including Grundy Countyians, but these grim statistics are visible part of the iceberg that give us warning.


We asked candidates for the upcoming elections in Grundy County how they view the drug abuse problems in our county. How can they, if elected, make significant progress in stemming the manufacture of illegal drugs and the abuse and deaths from deaths from these drugs.


Iva Michelle Russell – Candidate, Grundy County Mayor

Iva Michelle Russell

As I mentioned in the previous topic, I spent a great deal of time researching and talking to people who are much smarter than I on the topic at hand.  There seems to be a consensus that the current crisis stems from an interesting set of circumstances involving doctors, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, government regulatory practices and good ole supply and demand and the devil is in the details, literally. As County Mayor, I have no control over these major issues, so I am going to focus on what we can do at home.


I read an excellent case study from Iceland of all places (and a cool place to visit), that created a plan 20 years ago to stem drug and alcohol abuse among their young people (a national crisis). Today, they have the cleanest living kids in Europe. How did they do it? They implemented common sense solutions.

  • Enforcement of Curfew Laws
  • Parental involvement and accountability in school and home activities
  • Increased funding for art, music, dance and other clubs and after-school programs


I was married to a functional alcoholic, so I intimately know the damage addiction does to a family, especially the children. Addiction creates a vicious cycle of learned behavior that we must stop in order for our communities to heal and become a better place to live and thrive exponentially. We owe it to our children and our future generations.

  • More faith-based recovery opportunities
  • More support group options
  • Alternative sentencing programs
  • Job placement and transportation solutions

I believe we live in a small enough county that if we work together, we can find our own path to success.

Mayor Michael Brady – Candidate, Grundy County Mayor

Michael Brady

The opioid epidemic is a huge issue for Grundy County as well as our state. It has no ethnic or economic barriers. It affects everyone! Taking back our community from the grips of addiction is a priority.  When combating and addressing the issue within Grundy County, we have to address the illegal obtaining of opioids, Support originations and engage our faith-based community, and when someone seeks help for addiction there has to be treatment.

When I was on the Grundy County commission we passed a Resolution that prohibited any pain management clinics from locating within 13 miles of an existing one. Which would limit them within the county. The state data base and federal restrictions are making obtaining illegal opioids difficult, but they will find a way. We have to be persistent and support our law enforcement.

Education and prevention has to start in our schools. I have and will support the organizations with the mission of combating addiction, such as Celebrate Recovery.  Church’s and faith-based origination will be instrumental in combating opioid addiction. If you read about the success stories such as the one in Kentucky, the faith based and prayers within churches changed a community overrun with addiction, to a community of hope. As a Christian I feel that the engagement of the faith-based and churches will be key to our success.

Good folks can get caught up in a bad situation. Many addicts realize they have a problem, but when they seek help they do not know where to go and how will they be treated. We have to have adequate treatment. I have and will support affective treatment and outreach for those with addiction

As mayor I will support tough legislation to regulate illegal access to opioids, make treatment of addiction a priority, and as a Christian, support and urge churches and faith-based organization interventions.

Rep. Paul Sherrell – Candidate, State Representative

Paul Sherrell

Tennessee’s ongoing opioid crisis is the paramount issue that will determine the future outcome of Grundy County and our state. Each day, at least three Tennesseans die from opioid-related overdoses — more than our daily number of traffic fatalities.

This year, my colleagues and I began addressing this public health crisis by passing groundbreaking legislation known as Tennessee Together. This multifaceted plan is comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through the budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.


First, Tennessee Together limits the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions — with reasonable exception and an emphasis on new patients — in an effort to limit the number of prescriptions available on our streets and within our communities. This plan also includes education for elementary and secondary schools through revisions to the state’s health education academic standards to better inform our future leaders about the dangers of opioids.


Additionally, Tennessee Together increases state funding to attack the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids by expanding both law enforcement and training, and also includes updates to the controlled substance schedules in order to better track, monitor, and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs — including fentanyl.


Finally, Tennessee Together provides every state trooper with naloxone for emergency treatment involving opioid overdose prior to paramedic arrival.


We will not be able to incarcerate our way out of this epidemic. However, we can end the cycle of addiction that many of our families have become all too familiar with by creating new solutions to address all sides of this very complex issue. I look forward to having the opportunity to build upon our recent efforts battling the opioid crisis in the years ahead.