Opioid task force set to unveil plan to cut addiction

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - An opioid task force unveiled a plan Monday to fight the opioid epidemic in Shelby County.

The task force formed last year and quickly got to work on a problem they said cannot wait any longer for a solution.

From 2013 to 2016, 474 people died from opioid overdoses--most of those deaths were concentrated in the heart of the county.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the opioid epidemic has not yet peaked.

The Shelby County opioid task force said it plans to spend $2.4 million in the first year to combat the epidemic.

The money will be spent to help the county map out opioid-related deaths, track overdoses, boost public awareness of the epidemic, and subsidize the cost of opioid-combating drugs.

The task force hopes to also add services for people suffering from opioid addiction by July 1.

The task force will also work with law enforcement to stop the supply and distribution of opioids. The task force hopes to also advocate for harsher punishments for drug dealers.

"Anything and everything that we can do to speak to parents, students, to retired citizens to understand the level of the epidemic that we are dealing with, the destruction of these drugs and how to stop the addiction. That's where we're going to see the great progress," Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said.

The goal of this local, state, and federal collaborative is to save more lives, not to lock more people up.

This is an evolving plan—with the task force planning to review the success of the program and make changes as needed.

Shelby County Commission filed a suit against a group of big pharmaceutical companies to recoup some of the costs of the epidemic. A judge ordered both sides to work it out in mediation.

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