(TDMHSAS press release) The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) applauds the Food and Drug Administration decision to make the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan available without a prescription. Tennessee has had a statewide collaborative pharmacy practice agreement in place since 2016 allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone to customers without a conventional prescription, but this decision at the federal level will expand the availability of the life-saving medication even further.
While the ruling will take some time to implement, the department’s long-standing and highly successful training, education and naloxone distribution program is still in effect. TDMHSAS has trained Tennesseans on how to recognize and respond to an overdose, including the use of naloxone since October 2017 through its Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist (ROPS) program. In addition, ROPS have provided Narcan and other forms of naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote to high-risk individuals, law enforcement and community agencies. In that time, the ROPS have distributed more than 450,000 units of naloxone resulting in more than 60,000 reported lives saved.
“What we’ve seen with our ROPS and what we know through our community partners is that naloxone saves lives, and more naloxone in the hands of Tennesseans at risk of overdose and those who love them is a good thing,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “We’re excited about the interest around naloxone and reversing an overdose, and we want people to continue to lean on our ROPS for training and naloxone if needed.”
In addition to distributing naloxone to people at risk of overdose, addiction service providers, community service providers, and first responders, the ROPS have educated hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans on the brain science of addiction, how to use naloxone, and stigma reduction. In recent years, the ROPS presentation has included new material on fentanyl to help participants understand the chemical that’s continuing to drive Tennessee’s drug overdose numbers without causing unnecessary fear.
“In the Division of Substance Abuse Services, we focus on communication, coordination, and collaboration, and our work through the ROPS is proof that this approach saves lives. We communicate in plain terms about the brain science of addiction, the deadly nature of fentanyl, and the life-saving power of naloxone, we coordinate with our amazing network of prevention, treatment, and recovery providers, and we collaborate with community groups to save lives and change lives every day,” said Taryn Sloss, TDMHSAS Assistant Commissioner for Substance Abuse Services.
There are 26 ROPS serving all 95 counties in Tennessee. To learn more about the program and to schedule a free training, visit: tn.gov/behavioral-health/rops.