Rally focuses on opiate addiction

BY LINDSAY MCREYNOLDS

A handful of people hoping to continue a conversation about opiate addiction awareness held signs about the dangers of pain pills and the possibilities of recovery Saturday outside the Putnam Courthouse.

“We want to show people there’s a solution,” said recovering addict Nathan Hodges. “Somebody drives by, and this could start a conversation in their car. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for recovery.”

Saturday was the second opiate addiction awareness rally organized by Nathan Payne, an outreach coordinator with Lifeline of Tennessee as well as a recovering addict.

Last year a few people stopped and asked for more information about how to get help. This time, he’s more prepared with information as well as his own phone number on a poster.

“I’ve been doing this job almost two years, and it seems like the calls increase more each day,” Payne said. “I think my name is starting to get out.”

He said sometimes a call will turn into having coffee with a family of someone struggling with addiction and then nothing else.

But other times after that phone call, the person needing help will be ready to accept help and subsequently connected with treatment.

More than 1,600 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. That number is an increase from the 1,451 in 2015.

“Each of these numbers represents a person, with family and friends who are now facing the loss of someone dear to them to a cause that is preventable,” said TDH Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner. “The rate of increase in these deaths is slower than in the previous year, but it is still a horrible increase, and as we feared, our data show illicit drugs like fentanyl are now driving the increase.”

Those statistics are prompting more awareness and action from various agencies trying to help.

The state department of health has created the Tennessee Drug Overdose Dashboard to provide more information on fatal and non-fatal…

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