Tennessee is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. In 1999, 342 residents of Tennessee died from prescription medication overdose. However, by the year 2016, Tennessee had 1,631 overdose deaths and was the third highest prescriber of opioids. Although Tennessee is currently experiencing a reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions filled, the number of hospitalizations and overall opioid deaths are still increasing, which is most likely due to the increased use of heroin and the addition of synthetic fentanyl to other substances. This epidemic has had a staggering impact on infants, children, adolescents, adults, families, communities, and professional workforces (e.g., healthcare, judicial, law enforcement).
The goal of the consortium, led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT), will be to actively work together to decrease opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose deaths in identified rural counties. To reach these goals, the consortium will need to coordinate prevention, treatment, and recovery services. During the project period, the consortium will conduct a detailed analysis. Based on this analysis, the consortium will develop a strategic plan, a comprehensive workforce plan, a sustainability plan, and strategies to disseminate program information to the consortium and communities. Because OUD stigma can be a barrier to healthcare, the consortium will develop and implement education programs for primary care providers and the target population that includes information on the science of addiction and recovery success stories, which have been shown to effectively decrease social and structural stigma. Community health educators will also be trained on the use of naloxone and will go on to educate community members in the rural communities in the RCORP-ET region.