Open Letter to TDMHSAS

Dear Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services:

We urgently write to you as concerned residents of Nashville-Davidson County and non-profit service providers to ask you to immediately restore full access to Narcan/Naloxone for organizations serving people experiencing homelessness.

Funding is available. We are aware of federal funds awarded to the state of Tennessee in 2021 via The American Rescue Plan amounting to $25 million through the Community Mental Health Block Grant Program and $27 million through Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program. Surely this unprecedented flow of federal funds can be appropriately allocated to ensure accessibility of this life-saving medicine.

The individuals we serve have no other means through which to access Narcan. It has been suggested that the individuals we serve can access Narcan on their own if they are insured through TennCare. While this indeed is one way that someone enrolled in TennCare can access Narcan, our service providers confirm that only about 10% of the individuals that we work with are actually eligible and enrolled in TennCare. As a result, the supply of Narcan that the non-profit providers in Nashville-Davidson County have access to truly is the only way many Nashvillians can access this life-saving medicine.

Time is of the essence. Metro Nashville Public Health reported a 32% increase in overdose-related deaths in 2020. Likewise, their second quarter data from 2021 already reported an 11% increase in overdose deaths compared to this time last year. This request could not be more timely, as we are in the midst of Overdose Prevention Awareness Week as proclaimed by The White House. In this spirit, we urge you to fulfil the responsibility granted to you under the Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Treatment Act of 1973 by the Tennessee General Assembly by fully restoring our access to Narcan. We need your support in order to continue to save the lives of those in our community.

We ask that you use your position of power to protect our state’s most vulnerable residents. We can only ensure the safety and health of our community if we work together and if those who act as first responders – the outreach workers, street medics, service providers, and substance users themselves – are equipped with the tools necessary to do so.

Sincerely,

The Contributor
Colby’s Army
Mental Health Cooperative
Neighborhood Health
Open Table Nashville
People Loving Nashville
Shower the People
The Village at Glencliff