Coaches, health officials discuss opioid use among teens

JACKSON, Tenn. — People from all different professions came to the Opioid Summit Wednesday in Jackson to learn more about how opioids are impacting teens.

“It’s something that’s affecting a lot of our kids in the schools today, and it’s something we need more education as far as educators and coaches,” said Billy Windsor, head football coach at Lake County Middle School.

“I know teenagers are different than adults,” said Debbie Armour, behavioral health coordinator at Hardeman County Community Health Center. “So anything new I can learn about working with teenagers would be very helpful to me.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, more than 1,600 people died from an opioid overdose across the state in 2017.

“That averages out to a little more than three per day, and almost everybody knows somebody that’s been affected by opioid addiction,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health.

Monty Burks is with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. He says churches can play a big role in helping with the opioid epidemic.

“They can reach individuals in all 95 of our counties,” Burks said. “The faith community looks like their county, they breathe like their county, so they understand cultural competency when dealing with individuals suffering in their counties.”

Those who work with students every day say they hope they’re able to take new tools back to their schools and counties to spread even more awareness about the epidemic.

“Working on those relationships to understand why do they do these things, what’s the draw to it, and then how do we counteract it, how do we change it so it works out better for them,” Windsor said.

“Adolescent use is something we don’t think about a lot, particularly when you have athletes and they have injuries, which is very common,” Dr. Piercey said.

Piercey says the best way to prevent an addiction is to stop it before it happens.

“We are seeing some early progress in many of our statistics,” Piercey said. “We saw the first ever decrease in rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome, that’s babies born addicted.”

Piercey says we need coaches, health officials and state leaders to fight the epidemic.

“There’s hope. It’s not a done deal. It’s not something we’re helpless about. It’s something incrementally everybody can affect positively if they put forth their efforts,” Piercey said.

Those in attendance said they’re looking forward to taking what they’ve learned back to their counties to help those struggling with any kind of opioid addiction.

Categories: Local News, News