CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Drivers heading East on I-24 in Cheatham County get rather alarming advice if they look up. A recent billboard reads: “One life lost to opioids is too many. Carry Narcan.”
Experts say it takes an average of seven times seeing something for it to really register. The Tenn. Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse says awareness campaigns like this are saving lives.
“If we can start that conversation, we’ll engage you and we’ll train you and we’ll get you as much information as we can,” Anthony Jackson a director with the substance abuse department said.
The state has 20 Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists spread out across 95 counties. It’s a program rolled out in October of 2017 educating and equipping the public with Narcan to save people overdosing.
In the program’s two years, they’ve given out 70,000 Narcan kits and saved a reported 7,500 lives.
“That’s a big deal for us because that’s more than 10 percent return rate. Basically, every 10 we put out there, our expectation is we’ll have at least one save, that’s awesome in our mind, but the reality is that’s recorded,” Jackson said, “There’s no shadow of a doubt that there are more saves in this program, we just don’t have it recorded.”
With a total of 1818 overdose deaths in Tennesse 2018, Jackson said you never know if you can save a life.
These billboards are just one awareness method in Cheatham, Cookeville, and Smith county — specifically part of the initiative called ‘Tennessee Together.’ An online tool for communities, law enforcement, government, and others to find ways they can help combat the opioid crisis.
“It’s anyone,” Jackson said, “It could be somebody that’s elderly, it could be the police responding to a call, it could be somebody’s family member. I actually know of people that have accessed this program and have used it for their family. It’s anyone. It’s you and me.”
To contact the regional specialist in your area, click here.