RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Rutherford County has received more than $1.5 million in first round opioid lawsuit settlement money and has begun distributing the funds to organizations working to combat the epidemic.
“The state had sued some of the pharmaceutical companies concerning the opioid epidemic and those funds and settlements have come through, and the state is allocating them to counties based on size, and also the problem that we have with deaths and opioid overdoses,” explained Rutherford County Opioid Board Chairman Craig Harris.
The board gave funding to seven different groups, including Interfaith Dental of Rutherford County, Doors of Hope, and the Rutherford County Probation Department.
Middle Tennessee State University was also given $100,000 to establish an office to help the county review applications and allocate future opioid settlement funds.
However, Harris said one of the groups that received funds presented them with less data than the others and is lead by a felon.
“We took a chance,” Harris said.
H.U.S.T.L.E Recovery received $40,000 to continue their mission to help people seeking treatment stay safe and navigate the process.
“Over the last two years we’ve been able to place over 2,800 people into treatment, and last year we put down over half a million miles of sober companion transports,” said H.U.S.T.L.E. founder Troy Sandifer.
Sandifer’s journey with opioids began the same way as countless others.
“Well, years ago I got started in a doctor’s office like a lot of us do. I had hurt my back at work. I got prescribed way too many pain pills; it led into other addictions,” he said.
Sandifer ended up getting in trouble with law enforcement, but said judges took a chance on him and he used that opportunity to tell others.
While he was in recovery, Sandifer learned on Facebook that one of his friends died from an overdose.
“I was just really…my feelings about it. I ended up putting a post on Facebook that basically just said, ‘Look man, if you’re struggling with this, you don’t have to die. There are people out here that can help you, and if you don’t know where to find help, then here’s my number. Call me,'” he remembered.
Twenty days later, he started getting calls, prompting him to begin researching how to help.
“I would call these facilities. When they answered I would say, ‘Hey, my name is Troy. I’m a recovering addict and I’m not trying to watch these people die. Is there any way you can help teach me how to get people into your treatment facility?'” he said.
He says now the money given to him by the county will save lives.
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“As soon as they call, we come and get you first. Instead of facilitating that admission into a treatment facility, we bring you into one of the homes that we have; we have six different properties. You’ll stay there and then we’ll do your clock care coordination” he said.
Harris said that allocating these funds to groups like H.U.S.T.L.E. is just one part of their response to the epidemic. He explained that the county is focused on raising awareness on the issue, educating the community and students about the dangers of opioids and recovery efforts.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can call the the Tennessee REDLINE 24/7 hotline at 1-800-889-9789 or can reach H.U.S.T.L.E at 615-568-5699.