by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive

Last Tuesday night, Commissioners approved creation of the Lawrence County Opioid Abatement Council and the members who will serve on it.

These volunteers will meet to make ongoing recommendations for ways to help those affected by the opioid crisis, using our share of opioid settlement funds. The county Budget committee, then the Commission as a whole, will have final approval on spending.

The source of these funds is a nationwide settlement totaling $26 billion from companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, dispensing, or sale of opioids. They are manufacturers Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Teva, and Allergan; distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc., and McKesson Corporation; and national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.

Tennessee will receive more than $613 million over the next 18 years, and 35% of those funds are coming in direct payments to the state’s 95 counties, and cities with populations over 25,000. In 2022-23, we received a total of $342,772.29. In 2023-24, we will receive $362,338.82. County allocations are based on population, the number of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses, and opioid sales figures.

The Tennessee Opioid Abatement Council, appointed by the General Assembly, developed a list of acceptable uses for those funds. They include continuing opioid use disorder treatment programs, medication-assisted treatment, recovery supports, prevention measures, harm prevention, and education.

The council also issued guidelines for members of county and city Opioid Abatement Councils. Recommended members include judges, citizens who have had experience with opioids (either personally or with a relative), counselors who help those individuals, and people involved in community prevention efforts. I recommended these Lawrence Countians based on their experience, education, wisdom, and integrity:

CIRCUIT JUDGE DAVID ALLEN, who helped develop and was the first to preside over Recovery Court programs in this judicial district, starting in Lawrence County. He received a “Judges Making a Difference” award at the 2021 Tennessee Association of Recovery Court Professionals (TARCP) conference.

Recovery Court offers those who qualify an opportunity to participate in a strict program of recovery instead of serving jail time. They are held accountable through frequent, unannounced drug tests; home visits; intensive outpatient therapy; and appearance in court twice a month. They are expected to live in a sober environment, improve their education and job skills, and pursue employment.  Participants who fail drug tests or don’t meet other expectations go back to jail.

CIRCUIT JUDGE CHRIS SOCKWELL, this district’s current Recovery Court Judge.

TAMARA ROBINSON, Director of the district’s Recovery Court program.

Dr. JOHN BEASLEY, Chairman of the Lawrence County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition Board.

PATSY ODOM, Clinical Director of 8 Oaks Recovery, a Lawrence County residential and outpatient treatment program that combines clinical and spiritual approaches to recovery.

BRANDON KEETON, who came through his own recovery journey and is now a contractor providing jobs for people walking the same path.

I know this group will provide thoughtful, innovative ideas to help people in our community affected by the opioid crisis.

Skip to content