East Tennessee Rural Health Consortium Basics

East TN RHC Basics

Tennessee is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. In 1999, 342 residents of Tennessee died from prescription medication overdose. However, in the year 2021, Tennessee reported 3,038 overdose deaths and the sixth-highest opioid prescription rate in the United States. 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), is to actively work together to decrease opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose deaths in identified rural counties. To reach these goals, the consortium serves to coordinate prevention, treatment, and recovery services. OUD stigma remains a barrier to healthcare. To address this, the consortium has developed and implements 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. Mentoring programs to support professional development are also active in pharmacy, faith leadership, and expansion of medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

Consortium Members