mental health

State: You can’t overdose on fentanyl by touching objects

Fentanyl cannot be be absorbed by touching items or surfaces where the drug had been located, the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services advised on Wednesday.

“It’s so important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to fentanyl because Tennesseans are dying of overdose by the thousands. It is our hope that these facts will help people who are struggling with opioid use reach to treatment if they need it and find a new life in recovery,” the department’s commissioner, Marie Williams, said in a release.

Here’s the full statement:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and Department of Health today issued new guidance and information around fentanyl and what to do in case of a potential exposure.

Recent media reports have highlighted stories of exposure to a white powdery substance assumed to be fentanyl and the wide variety of adverse medical reactions that followed. While these stories are disturbing, it is important for everyone involved to separate fact from fiction when talking about fentanyl exposure to avoid unnecessary confusion and panic.

Illicit fentanyl cannot be absorbed through the skin or by touching an item or surface where it is present. When in powder form, fentanyl and its analogs (including carfentanil and fluorofentanyl) cannot be absorbed through the skin. Dissolving the powder in a liquid does not change this property. Wet objects do not pose an increased risk for an overdose caused by casual exposure.

“It’s so important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to fentanyl because Tennesseans are dying of overdose by the thousands. It is our hope that these facts will help people who are struggling with opioid use reach to treatment if they need it and find a new life in recovery,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW.

“Overdoses are heart-wrenching, for those who live through them and for the family and friends of those who don’t,” said TDH Commissioner Dr. Morgan McDonald, MD FACP FAAP. “We are taking every opportunity to provide care and information to those dealing with addiction to prevent deaths and overdoses from fentanyl and opioids.”

What should you do if you believe you have been exposed to a substance that could be fentanyl?

• Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any substance from your hands.
• If you begin to experience any adverse medical symptoms, seek medical attention.

Symptoms of opioid/fentanyl overdose include pinpoint pupils, falling asleep or losing consciousness, slow and shallow breathing, choking or gurgling sounds, limp body, and pale, blue, or cold skin. If you suspect an overdose, call 911, and administer naloxone (Narcan) if available. Do not leave the person alone.

Symptoms such as alertness, rapid heartbeat, hyperventilating, sweating, chills, numbness in fingers are NOT typically associated with opioid/fentanyl overdoses, though they may need medical attention. These symptoms are more commonly associated with anxiety or a panic attack.

For a fentanyl overdose to occur, the powder must enter the bloodstream and get to the brain. This is why it is important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth until you can wash your hands. Fentanyl can also enter the bloodstream through cuts or wounds on the skin. Wounds must be open and visible to allow fentanyl to enter.

Prescription fentanyl transdermal patches dispensed by a licensed pharmacist are especially formulated to include other pharmaceutical ingredients designed to increase the permeability of the skin which allows a small amount of fentanyl to be absorbed very slowly. Full absorption of fentanyl through a patch takes 3-13 hours. Proper disposal of patches reduces the risk of ingestion by children and pets.

To learn more about fentanyl, overdose reversal, and how to save a life with naloxone, please reach out to the Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist who serves your area. Additionally, you can find recorded trainings and information about fentanyl on our website at this link: TN.gov/behavioral-health/fentanyl. If you or someone you love needs connection to addiction treatment services call or text the Tennessee REDLINE at 800-889-9789 for free and confidential referrals.

Lee revives $250M mental health trust fund proposal for K-12 students

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is reviving a proposal to create $250 million trust fund to tackle mental health issues for K-12 students. Lee made a similar proposal last year, but it was abandoned amid uncertainty about the state’s budget picture amid the pandemic.

Here is the full release from the Lee adminstration:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee re-introduced the Mental Health Trust Fund in a renewed proposal to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal allocates $250 million in available funds to create strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.

“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education and success beyond the classroom,” said Gov. Lee. “While my administration proposed these critical mental health supports last year, we now have the available funding and a greater need than ever before to ensure our students have access to mental health resources. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their partnership in this important effort.”

“We know the earlier we can intervene, the better outcomes are for children and families,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “The services that will be funded by this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from entering mental health crisis situations and ending up in an emergency room.”

Services supported by the Mental Health Trust Fund would include: 

– Direct clinical services in schools

– Mental health awareness and promotion

– Suicide prevention and postvention strategies

– Trauma-informed programs and practices

– Violence and bullying prevention

– Project Basic, which includes mental health supports

There is a significant need for strong K-12 mental health supports:

– Nationally, one in five children has a mental health diagnosis in any given year

– Over 60% of children who receive mental health services do so through their school

– Youth mental health has worsened in the last decade: From 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of Major Depressive Episode (MDE) in Tennessee youth ages 12-17 increased from 9.1%

– The approximate prevalence of any mental illness in the past year among Tennessee youth is about 300,000

– In January 2021, Tennessee ranked 28th in overall mental health and 34th overall in youth mental health 

– School closures during COVID-19 limited students’ access to mental health services and caused a pause in critical mental health reporting

The Lee administration has taken strong action to address mental health:

– Behavioral Health Safety Net for Children: Essential mental health supports for uninsured children age 3-17 beginning September 2020

School Based Behavioral Health Liaison (SBBHL) Expansion:Expanded proven program to all 95 counties

TN Suicide Prevention Network: Expanded regional directors to increase coverage and boosted training in suicide prevention

– Youth and Young adult Mental Health Awareness and Promotion:Funding granted to three separate programs that reached more than 11,000 individuals

Gov. Lee announces $15M mental health initiative

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced a $15 million initiative to address mental illness in Tennessee.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced three priorities to increase access to mental health treatment and expand suicide prevention efforts across the state.

“The mental health of our citizens is foundational to all other goals we seek to accomplish in education, job growth and public safety,” said Lee. “By prioritizing our mental health safety net and suicide prevention, we are caring for more Tennesseans and building healthier communities.”

Gov. Lee is proposing $11.2 million in new funding to expand access to services for Tennesseans living with serious mental illness. This investment seeks to cover an additional 7,000 uninsured Tennessee adults through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program, which provides several essential mental health services.  Additionally, the investment addresses increasing costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes and ensures that those facilities will continue to provide high quality care to Tennesseans with the most significant psychiatric needs.

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Advancing bill broadens mandate for reporting mental health commitments

Many persons involuntarily committed to mental health institutions currently are not reported to the TBI for inclusion in the database of those ineligible to buy a gun because of a quirk in Tennessee law that would be eliminated by pending legislation, reports the Johnson City Press.

As things stand now, mental health hospitals licensed under Title 33 of Tennessee Code Annotated are mandated to report involuntary commitments. But hospitals licensed under Title 68 – including general acute care hospitals that have a psychiatric wing – are not.

SB2365, introduced as a caption bill, has been amended in committee “to fix this loophole,” the article says. Sponsors are Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) and Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and the TBI is advocating the measure as amended.

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Green Valley Developmental Center finally closes

News release from Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

GREENEVILLE – The final two people living at Greene Valley Developmental Center (GVDC) transitioned to their new homes on Friday, effectively closing the state institution after more than 5 decades of operation.

Tennessee joins 13 other states and the District of Columbia with no large, state-run institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, which is a significant milestone in improving the lives of people with disabilities in Tennessee.

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Therapist ethics bill dropped in favor of broader legislation

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jack Johnson is dropping a bill mandating a new code of ethics for counselors and instead backing a broader bill that will cover other professions, reports the Times-Free Press.

Johnson, R-Franklin, had stirred controversy by introducing SB1, which basically followed up on a law enacted in 2016 that allows licensed counselors and therapists to opt out of serving clients whose goals were at odds with a professional’s ‘sincerely held principles.’

Instead of pushing for a new state-written code of conduct and ethics for the Tennessee Counseling Association… Johnson… throwing his support to a bill introduced by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown. (SB449)

Their bill would require dozens of state professional associations that adopt codes of practice, often fashioned at the national level and enforced by state-created boards, to come under the state’s Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. There the codes would be reviewed by state lawmakers.

… (Senate Government Operations Chairman) Bell said he began “looking at this more from a global perspective and how we can make sure first that — I don’t want to go through the fight that we went through last year that Sen. Johnson and Rep. Howell passed. I’d much rather this be done in an orderly way.”

Bell said his panel and its House counterpart already provide such order and “can review guidelines, codes of ethics and rules or regulations.”

Note: Press release and a critical comment from Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris are below.

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An update on Tipper Gore: Advocating, drumming and taking pictures

Tipper Gore lives mostly in Virginia these days, spends time traveling to New York and California to visit four grandchildren, continues to take photographs, advocates for those less fortunate than she and still plays drums although it’s with family members now and not on stage.

So reports Georgiana Vines in an update on the former wife of former Vice President Al Gore Jr., who  granted an interview – on condition that politics not be discussed — after giving the keynote speech at a Nashville fundraiser for Tennessee Voices for Children, a statewide organization that she founded in 1990 when services for those with mental health issues were not as available as they are today.

“I’m enjoying where I am and particularly that I’m a grandmother,” Gore said in a rare interview.

…Rikki Harris, CEO of Tennessee Voices, said a goal of $100,000 was reached (at the fundraiser). She said Gore was excitedly responsive when asked to speak.

“She wouldn’t take a dime. She paid her own expenses and bought her own table,” Harris said.

The organization serves 50,000 children, youth, families and child-serving providers. While Gore said she’s “very touched and very proud” of what Voices for Children does, 49 percent of kids and families with needs still aren’t getting services.

… The (couple’s four) children bring Tipper and Al Gore together on family occasions, sometimes to Carthage. Each has been reported by the national media as dating others.

Tipper Gore has a second home in the Santa Barbara area, where she does volunteer work on behalf of the homeless and LGBT community. She said when she visits daughter Sarah Maiani, her husband, Patrick, a musician, and their two-year-old, that she practices the drums.

“She has a full drum set. I play when I’m visiting her and her husband,” Gore said, adding. “A couple of years back, I played with Mickey Hart in Washington.” That was during an appearance of The Grateful Dead in April 2009.

She is co-chair of the advisory board of the Diana Basehart Foundation in Santa Barbara, which assists homeless and low-income people with animal care. In 2014, she had a photography exhibit at the Wall Space Gallery to support the Pacific Pride Foundation that provides services to the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities of Santa Barbara.

With the only reference to politics in the interview, Gore said that she had been asked to do photography leading up to the last election.

“I turned down the offer. I won’t say for whom. I do (photographs) for causes,” she said.