Tennessee and the nation have been battling the fentanyl and opioid crisis for nearly a decade.
Taxpayers fund the war on this deadly epidemic — and no one seems to be able to say exactly how much it is costing us.
TBI Director David Rausch puts it this way: “It’s going to be a large number, I mean, I would tell you I would not hesitate to say we are at better than 50-percent of what we utilize to keep our state safe is being utilized to address this crisis.“
Governor Bill Lee talked about the cost of the crisis, too: “We have a thousand crime lab submissions this past year around fentanyl, and that was 30% more than the year before and 60% more than 2 years ago. So you are right it is a tremendous cost to our system and that is why we have increased funding.“
Ten new TBI agents were added last year to the fight. Twenty-five more will be added this year to combat Medicaid fraud, and fentanyl is a direct cause.
“We are one of the most over-prescribed states in the country for opioids,“ Lee said. “Therefore, we are a target-rich environment for traffickers.“
There is a unified belief that fentanyl has to be defeated. The money to do that is being spent.
“I know this governor gets it,“ said TBI Director Rausch. “In his budget, you see that he’s got money in there for prevention. He’s got money in there for treatment, he’s got money in there for enforcement. While money is not the answer, it is going to help, it is the resource that helps us get there.“ In his budget, you see that he’s got money in there for prevention. He’s got money in there for treatment, he’s got money in there for enforcement. While money is not the answer, it is going to help, it is the resource that helps us get there.“
“It is going to require a comprehensive [approach] — more funding, smarter spending of our resources,“ Lee said. “But it’s the system — law enforcement, behavior and mental health.“
So how much money is being spent on the war against opioids, heroin, and now, fentanyl?
No dollar amount was given. According to Lee, the state will spend however much is needed.
“I don’t think you can buy your way out of it,“ he said, “but you do invest your way out of it.“
News 2 is investigating the impact of fentanyl across Middle Tennessee. We have special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. You can also join in on the discussion during a live town hall meeting airing at 6:30 p.m. on News 2.