TN Budget Hearings Take A Look At The Opioid Crisis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - A lot of eyes look to the state's TennCare program for some answers to the state's opioid epidemic. That's because it covers nearly a million and half Tennesseans.

The issue came up at the governor's budget hearings.

“It showed we have the 6th lowest per member cost among all state Medicaid programs.” In an array of papers, presentations, and pie charts before Governor Bill Haslam Thursday, top officials from the state's Medicaid program TennCare touted accomplishments for the nearly $1.5 million low income Tennesseans the department covers.

But inside those numbers are many of the people facing opioid addiction. They show a problem Tennessee needs to solve.

“So the rates at which TennCare members are diagnosed with opioid addiction and the rate TennCare babies are dependent on opiates has actually climbed at the same time that prescriptions have declined,” says Tenncare Director Dr. Wendy Long.

Governor Haslam asked the top TennCare official why? The state says the numbers show doctors prescribing less opioids, but addiction is going up.

The TennCare director says these numbers are just one part of the multi-state agency fight needed against the opioid epidemic.

“Most of the things we have been focused on so far is preventing addiction, but we have got to figure out what we do with this group of people,” says Dr. Long.

The director says it means her agency will re-evaluate and modify what it’s doing for those already addicted. TennCare says one of its strategies is to define standards for opioid treatment and access for all members.

 


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