Tennessee marked International Overdose Awareness Day on Monday by pointing out that more people than ever died from a drug overdose in the past year.
According to preliminary numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 Tennesseans died from a drug overdose in 2020. In 2019, the number was more than 2,000. In state fiscal year 2021 which ended on June 30th, the state’s Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists (ROPS) distributed more than 71,000 naloxone kits and recorded more than 11,000 opioid overdose reversals. Since the program began in late 2017, the ROPS have documented more than 26,000 lives saved through overdose reversal.
The COVID-19 pandemic produced a multitude of conditions which fueled the increase in overdose deaths: disconnection from recovery resources, job loss and economic uncertainty, increased stress and anxiety, and more. Behavioral health treatment and prevention experts are still seeing the effects of increased use of substances during the pandemic.
“We are so grateful to the amazing men and women who work at all levels of the behavioral health care system. We are especially thankful for of the people who have survived an overdose, made it through treatment, achieved recovery, and now use their past as purpose for the life-changing and life-saving work they do today,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “We know without their efforts, so many more families would feel the pain and loss of overdose.”
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Department of Health, and community groups across the state are holding memorials, trainings, and awareness events to remember the lives lost, celebrate the survivors of overdose, and empower Tennesseans to prevent deadly overdoses in their communities.