- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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April 4

The Commercial Appeal on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.:

Tuesday marks the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., an event that scarred Memphis and became a coda to a turbulent decade defined by racial unrest, landmark civil rights legislation and the unfulfilled promise of integration.

Throughout the nation, and especially in Memphis, people will reflect on King’s life and mission.

Civil rights leaders including Andrew Young and the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Memphis on Monday to dedicate a historical marker at Memphis International Airport commemorating King’s final flight. On Tuesday, the National Civil Rights Museum holds its annual ceremony at 6:01 p.m., the exact moment King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Young and Jackson were confidantes of King who were with him at the motel the day he was killed.

King’s final fight centered on economic equality and drawing attention to poverty, which then as now was especially acute in Memphis. King flew to Memphis on April 3, 1968, to support a sanitation workers strike. And, of course, King delivered his famous “Mountaintop” speech that night at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.

Nearly five decades later, his fight for the poor and disenfranchised still carries significance.

“One of the things that resonates for me is the seeming intractability of inequality,” said Charles McKinney, the chair of the Africana studies program at Rhodes College and an associate professor of history.

King’s vision, McKinney notes, was to “create a multiracial coalition that would address systemic inequality.”

It was striking inequality - driven by high rates of poverty, inadequate levels of education and the inability of many African-Americans to get jobs that paid a living wage - that propelled King to take a more strident stance in his last two years.

Jackson recalls the economic struggle then and says there are echoes today, even as he acknowledges “social progress” and many symbols of integration.

“When the walls of segregation came down, it freed up people who could become national leaders,” he said, citing white Southern politicians and, later, some black politicians. Jackson also cites achievements among collegiate and professional athletes, but says such progress has largely eluded African-Americans in the corporate world.

But the next 12 months, culminating next April 4 with the 50th anniversary of King’s death, offer a chance to hit the reset button, or at least to start and sustain meaningful conversations about the inequality issues that persist.

Online:

https://www.commercialappeal.com

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March 30

The Knoxville News Sentinel on the opioid crisis in Tennessee:

To understand what brought the scores of people to a forum at the West High School lecture hall Tuesday night, you must look at the numbers in the opioid epidemic.

Tennessee has the second-highest opioid prescription rate in the country, more than one prescription for every man, woman and child.

Opioid prescription and related deaths in Tennessee hit an all-time high of 1,451 in 2015.

Almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2014.

91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, including prescriptions and heroin.

As many as 1 in 4 people receiving a prescription opioid long term in primary care struggles with addiction.

More than 1,000 people are treated daily in an emergency room for not properly using prescription opioids.

You have a voice, though, in how the numbers turn out in the future.

“Tennessee’s Opioid Epidemic” panelists - Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch; Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department; and Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee - implored the forum attendees to use their voices.

Call your legislators. Opioid pain medications are tracked in a statewide database, but there is no national database to track addicts crossing state lines to other clinics.

The medical community sees addiction as a disease. Don’t vilify people who self-medicate as they do for a number of other illnesses. Get them help.

Short-term treatment will not heal an addict and a one-treatment-fits-all doesn’t work either. It may be detox, outpatient therapy or replacement drugs. Make sure the treatment provider knows the patient and their history, what may have been tried and failed, and what hasn’t been tried and might work. Time and treatment heal.

Resources are needed. Repeat that so legislators will hear it: Resources are needed. Treating people with addiction issues is expensive. Many addicts have no insurance or are underinsured. Programs may only be covered for short treatment periods when it takes long-term treatment for the brain to recover from the addiction. Rausch said it takes 18 months for an addict’s brain to fully recover, for that person to be restored to whom they once were.

Buchanan said local leaders should see that those resources go to good treatment centers. Not all are.

Finally, Rausch said 90 percent of the crime in Knoxville is related to addiction, mostly thefts to support addicts’ habits. If you treat the addict, you can reduce the crime.

You have a voice.

Legislators need to hear from you. Rausch said he has called and traveled to the Legislature so many times, the lawmakers may be getting tired of hearing from and seeing him. He said he won’t stop.

You have a voice. Use it. If you don’t, the opioid epidemic that has a grip on Tennessee and the nation will only grow, sweeping up you or someone you know. The numbers have proven that.

Online:

https://www.knoxnews.com

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April 1

The Johnson City Press on National Child Abuse Prevention Month:

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and state and local officials will be calling attention to a dreadful problem that we see nearly every day in every community of this country.

The Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 1,500 children die from abuse and neglect in the United States each year. That’s almost five children each day.

State officials investigate more than 60,000 reports of child abuse annually. This mistreatment includes physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse or psychological harm.

Telltale signs of child abuse often include malnutrition, poor hygiene and unexplained bruises. It is the responsibility of every Tennessean to report such abuse when they witness it. In fact, state law requires anyone with suspicions of child abuse to report it immediately to the state Department of Children’s Services or to local law enforcement officials.

Remaining silent is never an option. It is your duty to alert law enforcement authorities and child welfare officials to possible cases of abuse or neglect, and it is their duty to investigate these cases thoroughly.

The American Society for the Positive Care of Children say if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, trust your instincts and report it to the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453

You can also report child abuse any time of the day or night by calling Tennessee’s child abuse hotline at 877-237-0004.

Go to childwelfare.gov to learn more about what you can do to help stop child abuse.

Online:

https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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