- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - East Tennessee State University has announced the formation of a new research center that will focus on combating the prescription-drug-abuse epidemic in the region.

The ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment was approved by the state last month and formally announced at a news conference Wednesday, news outlets reported.

The center will take a central role in studying numerous ways to treat prescription-drug abuse, including abstinence-based treatment and medication-based treatment, said executive director Dr. Robert Pack.

“With the announcement of the center today, it puts East Tennessee State University clearly in a position to make a difference from an education perspective, from a research perspective and intervention perspective,” said Dr. Brian Noland, ETSU president. “That’s our mission. That’s part of our role.”

The center’s debut is part of an ongoing effort within the state to combat prescription-drug abuse. According to the Tennessee Medical Association, the state has the nation’s second-highest rate of prescription drug abuse per capita.

Gov. Bill Haslam introduced a plan last year to slow the epidemic, and in 2015 lawmakers in Nashville repealed the Intractable Pain Act, which critics believed offered a legal shield protecting illegitimate pain-management clinics from prosecution.

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