Health and Human Services secretary visits Chattanooga Thursday on opioid crisis listening tour

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 15, 2017, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Health and Human Services Department's fiscal 2018 budget. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

If you go

Who: Tom Price, Health and Human Services secretary What: Listening Tour When: Thursday, July 6 at 10:30 a.m. Where: CADAS, Council for Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services 207 Spears Avenue Chattanooga, TN 37405

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will be in Chattanooga on Thursday, learning more about the opioid crisis gripping the nation.

Price is scheduled to be at CADAS on Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The stop is a part of Price's listening tour, as he hopes to learn from places like Tennessee that are on the front lines of the battling opioid epidemic. He will be joined at CADAS by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, recovery advocates, law enforcement officials, treatment and prevention specialists, survivors, and affected family members.

"Secretary Price and the Trump Administration understand that it is state and local policymakers, advocates, first responders, treatment centers, faith based organizations, good neighbors, and many more who have responded to help their communities in this time of great need," according to a statement from the HHS. "With this in mind, Secretary Price will participate in a listening session with representatives from these groups to learn about how the federal government can best support local initiatives and hear what is working and what is not."

In Tennessee, the opioid crisis has hit hard, as the state has the second-highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the country - nearly 5 percent of residents are addicted to opiates.

The number of opioid prescriptions and related deaths in the state has been on the rise for years and 1,451 people died in 2015 from opioid-related causes, which was more than those who died in vehicle crashes, according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Across the country, the drug overdose epidemic claimed more than 52,000 lives in 2015. More than six in 10 of these deaths were due to opioids, from prescription pain relievers like oxycodone to street drugs like heroin, The Associated Press recently reported.

The U.S. Senate's recently released health care bill designates $2 billion for fiscal year 2018 to provide grants to states for support, treatment and recovery services for people with mental or substance abuse disorders. The 142-page bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act contained a single mention of the opioid crisis on page 133, and does not reference continuing these funds in future years.

This $2 billion appropriation is far less than some Republican senators had hoped, as several senators advocated that $45 billion be spent in the next 10 years to combat the opioid epidemic.

The Senate's health care bill also includes deep cuts to Medicaid.

At a recent budget hearing, Price defended the Trump administration and raised questions about how much difference Medicaid actually makes.

The HHS budget for the opioid crisis is more than three times as great as two years ago, $811 million versus $245 million, Price said. That reflects increases approved by Congress beyond what Medicaid spends.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and.