Bredesen holds roundtable discussion in Wilson County on state’s opioid crisis

Staff Reports • Aug 21, 2018 at 5:05 PM

U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen held a roundtable discussion Tuesday morning at the Mt. Juliet Community Center to hear from a group of Middle Tennessee law enforcement and patient-care representatives who are on the front lines of Tennessee’s opioid crisis and see firsthand the devastating effect it has in communities across the state.

“I want to try to get some ideas a little closer to the front line to know what is really happening,” said Bredesen. “I know that the treatment of addiction is difficult and expensive with varying success rates.”

Those who attended the discussion were Wilson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Allen McPeak, Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore, Assistant District Attorney Jason Lawson, Mt. Juliet police Chief James Hambrick, Mt. Juliet police Deputy Chief Michael Mullins, Mt. Juliet police Lt. Jason Brockman, Lebanon police Lt. Scott Massey, Lebanon police Capt. Koy Lafferty, Mt. Juliet Cedar Recovery Center CEO Joe Bond, Mt. Juliet Cedar Recovery Center chief clinical officer Trent Hughes, former assistant commissioner for substance abuse services with the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and JourneyPure medical director Dr. Stephen Loyd, Cumberland Heights executive director for community-based services Randal Lea, Behavioral Health Group executive director Scarlett Bright, Behavioral Health Group licensed marriage and family therapist Annie Battley, Ryan Etherton and Laura Gay with 180 Health Partners.

Throughout the hour-long discussion, attendees emphasized the need for inpatient care to separate addicts from negative personal influences, as well as the importance of medication-assisted treatment as a way of weaning someone off of opioids.

“I don’t think any opioid addict ever took their first pill with the intentions of ‘I want to be an addict,’ but I think every addict wakes up every morning thinking about that first hit,” said Mullins.

Jason Lawson said one of the biggest misconceptions is that a person who seeks treatment will be charged with a crime.

“We would never charge if they’re actively seeking treatment. We say ‘Get them the help.  Get them to recovery.’ That’s what we’re interested in,” said Lawson.

To address the problem head-on, Bredesen said he believes patients, law enforcement and patient-care providers need to look at solutions to ensure everyone has a vested interest.

“It’s a typical kind of thing when you have a problem so complex that you attack it from all these different points and kinds of places,” said Bredesen. “At some point, you need to graduate from that and say ‘OK, this is a big problem, and what’s a sensible strategy and bipartisan changes in the way we’re doing things.’”

According to the Tennessee Department of Heath, there were 27 opioid overdose deaths in Wilson County in 2016, which made it the seventh-highest county for opioid-related deaths statewide.

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