NASHVILLE — Two dozen new Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents, a multifaceted public awareness campaign and an end to anyone walking into pain clinics without a physician's referral are among final recommendations approved Wednesday by a state House legislative task force grappling with Tennessee's opioid crisis.
The task force, created by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, has been meeting for months about steps that should be taken in a state with one of the nation's worst death rates from pain drug overdoses.
"They are not the end of the battle," Harwell said of the recommendations prior to their adoption. "We will continue to look at ways to combat the problem."
Besides recommendations calling for 25 new TBI agents to deal with narcotic pain drug issues and new requirements requiring independent referrals to pain clinics — one task force member called them "pill mills" — other provisions adopted by Harwell's task force include:
Citing the situation in Ohio, where one county official has described drug overdose deaths as a "mass casualty event," Tennessee task force member, Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said the state should look at creating such a designation here and explore whether there might be additional federal funding available as a result.
Harwell later told reporters she will review the dozens of recommendations with an eye toward action come January.
It is "a priority for this body and we'd like to see additional funding in the governor's budget," Harwell said. "But if not I think you'll see the General Assembly move to provide for more treatment for our citizens."
This story was updated Sept. 6 at 11:59 p.m. with more information.