- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

June 8

Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel on prescription drug abuse:

Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to combat prescription drug abuse focuses on reducing the amount of medication prescribed in the state while increasing the resources for intervention and treatment.

The approach is solid - intervention and treatment are more cost-effective than incarceration in the long run. But there will be added up-front costs, and the state was hit hard this year by an unexpected revenue shortfall.

Haslam and Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney announced the plan on Tuesday.

The plan outlines the breadth and depth of Tennessee prescription drug problem. There are 4.85 million adults in Tennessee, and the state estimates 221,000 of them - 4.56 percent - have used prescription pain relievers in the past year for non-medical reasons. About 69,000 are addicts who require treatment, while the rest could benefit from intervention programs before it is too late. Opioid addicts are more likely to be married, employed and have greater than 12 years of education than those addicted to other drugs.

In 2012, for the first time, prescription opioids overtook alcohol as the primary substance of abuse for those in state-funded treatment programs.

The governor’s plan, called Prescription for Success, contains seven goals to address prescription drug abuse: decrease the number of abusers; decrease the number of overdoses; decrease the amount of controlled substances dispensed; increase access to drug disposal outlets; increase access to and the quality of early intervention, treatment and recovery services; improve interagency collaboration; and improve collaboration with other states.

Haslam’s action plan is long on ambition, but there are added costs. To reduce the number of people using prescription opioids by 20 percent, for example, the plan calls for funding more local coalitions that fight drug abuse and expanding a statewide media campaign.

Intervention, treatment and recovery services will need an infusion of cash to meet the governor’s goals of increasing the number of people receiving and completing treatment by 20 percent by 2018. The plan also calls for better funding for programs serving addicted mothers whose babies have been born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

The plan shows the administration has good intentions about coming up with a solution that could reverse the course of the state’s prescription drug problem. Real commitment, however, will have to come in the form of dollars in next year’s budget proposal and in persuading a parsimonious Legislature that prevention and treatment are wise investments.




June 2

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on Gov. Haslam:

Without a serious political opponent from either party, Gov. Bill Haslam is free to take the long view, a Nashville analyst says.

With re-election virtually assured, he can look to 2018 and beyond, says Chas Sisk of The Tennessean in Nashville. Rather than talk about his aims for the next few years, Haslam can present his ideas for what directions the Republican Party should take.

That puts him on the stage with nationally prominent politicians like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Claims that he has no interest in any position beyond governor are standard for someone in his position, Sisk suggested.

In his official campaign opening speech May 31, Haslam denied that Republicans oppose all government. In areas such as road-building and education, he said, government is crucial.

“We think government is and should be a force for good,” he said. “But it should be a force that’s responsible - for now and for future generations - and kept under control.”

That doesn’t exactly sound like a man with no further political ambitions.

But being governor is a serious and difficult job, too. Haslam would do well to lay out precisely the goals for his second term in the state Capitol.

Looking at the big picture is fine, but the office he’s running for is governor of the state.




June 5

The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, on environmental accountability:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations for limiting carbon emissions from electric power plants, announced this week, were sure to be met with criticism since an alarming percentage of the American public still doubts that man-made climate change is occurring, and in fact accelerating.

It is tough medicine, especially since it is coming on the heels of the worst economic downturn in 80 years - but that does not mean that the medicine is not needed.

The medicine, and the message, for Tennesseans appears to be that electric power plants that burn fossil fuels will need to reduce their carbon emissions by 39 percent, based on a plan that the state is required to devise to meet the EPA target beginning in 2016.

The immediate reaction from politicians who categorically oppose Obama administration policies is that jobs will be lost and that rates for electricity will go up. Advocates for the new regulations make their own case that new jobs will be created in renewable energy sources, construction and other fields; and argue that rates will ultimately decrease as power plants become cleaner, modernized and more energy-efficient.

But here is the salient point: Whether jobs are lost or gained, or they stay flat; whether rates climb, drop or stay the same, Tennessee and the entire country must do more to reduce carbon emissions - and on a dramatically larger scale than anything we have yet seen.

The Obama administration has been part of the problem, too, waiting until 2014 to produce a serious attempt to cut power-plant emissions, just as the president’s predecessor did little or nothing, and on back into the 1970s. Americans have procrastinated, hoping that somehow, some magic equation will come along to prevent our having to make sacrifices in our culture of overconsumption. Average Americans are seeing the results of this inaction in severe weather events, and scientists are seeing the long-term damage, as well, in glacier melt, species extinctions and more.

Most industrialized nations are much further along the path to modernizing their power grids, increasing their use of renewables and eliminating practices that worsen greenhouse gases. But not China, not Russia - and not the United States.

This is not to diminish the accomplishments of thousands of small clean-energy producers, groundbreaking utility companies like Austin Energy in Texas and the state of California on behalf of a cleaner environment. TVA, too, has been reducing carbon emissions. But this is a nation of 318 million people that must change its habits, and soon.





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