Public Health Emergency: The Opioid Crisis In The Mid-South

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - It's the deadliest drug crisis in our nation's history, killing nearly a hundred people every day. Thursday, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

This will allow some grant money to be used to combat opioid abuse, and it will ease certain laws and regulations to address it.

Opioids cover a wide range of drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain killers.

According to the Shelby County Health Department, the number of drug overdose deaths locally has doubled in the past three years.

"For many people, the first overdose is the fatal overdose,” says David Sweat with the Health Department.

Opioid addiction is at an all-time high nationwide. The number of overdose deaths continues to climb.

"It just becomes your entire thought process. It just takes over your brain,” says Becky Farruggia, President & Founder of Hearts For Hope And Healing.

In 2015, 22,000 people in the U.S. died from prescription drug overdoses. That's more than 60 deaths a day.

According to a 2016 Tennessee department of health report, the number of overdose deaths in Tennessee increased by 500 deaths between 2013 and 2016.

In Shelby County, the number of opioid related overdose deaths increased from 93 deaths in 2013 to 150 deaths in 2016.

"Compared to some other parts of America, those numbers are small,” says Sweat. “But when you look at that rate of increase, it's very rapid."

Becky Farruggia, founder of Hearts for Hope and Healing, helps addicts get off drugs. She says a public health emergency is a positive first step in fighting the opioid addiction battle, but she fears it will not win the war.

"It's gonna actually send more into the street, leading to heroin, meth, and the IV, because it's gonna be harder to get the pills,” says Farruggia.

The Shelby County Health Department is working with other agencies to create a task force to tackle the opioid epidemic locally.

"We're looking at what other communities, who have been more actively involved for a longer period of time fighting the opioid epidemic, we're looking at what they've done. Trying to learn from their successes and build on those,” says Sweat.

Hearts for Hope and Healing is teaming up with Turning Point Counseling to hold a Town Hall Thursday night at Bellevue Baptist Church on Appling Road in Cordova.

The "call to action" town hall is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will address the opioid epidemic.

 


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