Shelby County opioid task force identifies key areas where support needed

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Commission Chairwoman Heidi Shafer said a special opioid task force has wrapped up its first round of work, and now will be moving on to figure out how much additional social services will cost.

The debate and discussion over what to do about the opioid epidemic in Shelby County has been ongoing for months. The hope is a solution is near.

"We've identified within the task force the things that we'd need to do within the next two years to make sure that we are making progress not only in reversing the problem we've got right now, but preventing it in the future," Shafer said.

Prenatal and neonatal services for babies born addicted to opioids, peer support groups for those battling addiction, and education efforts in schools are some of the areas the task force has identified as key area where support is needed.

"The next step is to then break that out into working groups who are going to put flesh on the bones and dollars to that and really break it out," Shafer said.

The introduction of programs won't come cheap, but Shafer said the county can't wait to act any longer.

In past weeks, the health department presented statistics to commissioners showing the rapidly increasing numbers of opioid-related deaths and emergency department visits over a period of years.

"It affects every aspect that you can imagine--from schools, parents who are addicted, can't be good parents, you have people in our emergency room pulling from taxpayers, you look at law enforcement--it's in every aspect that we can imagine," Commissioner Reginald Milton said.

The task force is expected to make a formal presentation to the commission with the possible costs of intervention plans in the coming weeks.

"It is going to cost us a great deal of money," Shafer said.

Of course, there is a lawsuit in place filed by the commission against big pharma to try and recoup some costs of the epidemic.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell objected to the commission filing that lawsuit, and last week, a judge told both sides to go to mediation to try and work it out.

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