- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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July 25

The Daily Times of Maryville on the success of Tennessee high school students:

Put in perspective, this is amazing. On July 20, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tennessee set a new record and for the third year in a row and leads the nation in the number students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

For so many years Tennessee has been accustomed to anticipating the worst when it came to national state-by-state comparisons.

When the rankings came out, whether it be calculated on economics or health or (this was always especially disappointing) education, Tennessee was bumping near the bottom.

A catch phrase evolved as a way to make light of the slight, deflect the annoyance with humor, point the finger in another direction: “Thank goodness for M. or A. or L.” or any other state you figured would keep Tennessee from ranking No. 50.

It was so bad, people across the country felt sorry for us. Thank God they did because it allowed the president and the Congress to overcome intransigence and create the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Yeah.

Tennesseans made fun of other Southern states just as poor.

They knew how it felt as poor folk trying to scratch out a living on the side of a rock-scape hill.

Either that or knowing that building and planting down in the valley meant sooner or later the river would rage, take the house, the barn, the livestock, the crops, everything you had.

Then came TVA. The innovative agency helped lift several states from levels of economic despair but none more than Tennessee.

It wasn’t all about the dams, either, as made clear in this article penned by Nancy Spannaus and reprinted by The Schiller Institute as part of its This Week in History series:

“To overcome prevalent illiteracy, the TVA, in conjunction with government agencies, brought in books and libraries, including libraries on wheels, to reach people in the outer areas of the region. When the library program began, it was distributing 52,000 books from 200 locations. By 1951, the regional library services distributed 1.5 million books. Finally, availing itself of the abundant electricity, the government constructed at Oak Ridge, Tenn., a nuclear development center, initially part of the wartime Manhattan Project, later one of the leading nuclear science and technology laboratories. A region that had been steeped in backwardness now had one of the top research and development centers in the world.”

That’s the kind of quantum leap Tennessee is attempting to expand upon today.

The FAFSA filing rate is important because it is a key indicator of the number of students planning to enroll in postsecondary education. The state is committed to the pursuit of Drive to 55, which aims to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025.

Nearly three-quarters of all Tennessee high school seniors - 73.5 percent - filed the FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year.

It’s a requirement for the state’s students to be eligible for both federal and state aid, including Tennessee Promise and the HOPE Lottery Scholarship.

Tennessee leads the nation in FAFSA filing by large margins. The District of Columbia comes in second with a 64.8 percent, followed by Delaware (61.6), New Jersey (61.0) and Massachusetts (60.4).

It’s reassuring to know the state’s high school seniors are lacing up their smart shoes.

The race is on, and for young Tennesseans it’s going to be amazing.

Nobody in this fast-paced global economy is feeling sorry for Tennessee now.

Online: https://www.thedailytimes.com/

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July 26

The Johnson City Press on mental health court:

Mental health court has proven to be an effective tool for easing jail overcrowding while helping certain defendants get the counseling they so desperately need.

The concept has particularly been a success in Washington County, where Sessions Court Judges Jim Nidiffer and Robert Lincoln established the program in 2007 to provide help for defendants with mental illnesses who find themselves in court for minor nonviolent offenses.

In the last decade, more than 57 people have successfully graduated from the program.

Instead of serving jail time, defendants (who are called “consumers” once they are accepted into the program by a panel of court and mental health officials) are required to complete a one-year program designed for them by the court’s mental health professionals. Participants are obligated to report back to the mental health court on a regular basis until their treatment is complete.

Those who graduate from mental health court see their charges dismissed. Court officials say 65 percent of those individuals have not come back through the Washington County Criminal Justice System.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is now pushing implementation of the mental health court program in all 95 counties of Tennessee. As Washington County has shown, it is a program that truly benefits the entire community.

It is gratifying to know that other communities are now using what has been learned from Washington County’s success with the mental health court to duplicate the program in their own courts.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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July 26

The Daily Post-Athenian of Athens on the opioid abuse issue:

Part of The Daily Post-Athenian’s duty as a steward of the community is to raise awareness of issues and concerns that affect the community - not as a means of pointing a finger but, rather, as a request for helping hands.

The law enforcement and public health problem of opioid abuse that has plagued not only the community but the nation is such a topic, which is why The DPA spent much of last week examining this issue on a local level.

Opioid drugs include those with an opium base and can range from prescription painkillers like Hydrocodone and Oxycodone to more severe drugs like Fentanyl and heroin.

Because many opioids are given out legitimately by doctors and have a positive benefit, awareness of opioid abuse isn’t as high as it is for drugs like meth, according to McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy. “People have this mindset that since it’s a prescription, it’s mine to do whatever with.”

Opioid-related overdose deaths have been rising across the State of Tennessee over the past few years, according to Guy, jumping from 342 in 1999 to 1,263 in 2014 and staying above 1,000 each year from 2011 to 2014.

The problem of over-prescription has been curbed a bit in that time period, however, as opioid-related prescriptions are currently down 20 percent.

Part of the credit for that appears to go to Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database, through which healthcare practitioners (including physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and persons under their supervision) who are legally authorized to dispense or prescribe a schedule II, III, IV or V controlled substance are required to submit data.

“Our doctors use it frequently,” said Starr Regional Medical Center Emergency Department Director Rob Clark. “They’ll enter a patient’s information, and it will pull up all of that patient’s prescriptions, what doctor or PA (physician’s assistant) or nurse practitioner prescribed them, what pharmacy filled them and when, how many tablets were in the prescription - it’s a pretty detailed report.”

“In 2011, Tennessee had the second-highest per capita prescription rate for opioids - that was a ten-fold increase from 2001,” noted Dr. David Childress, an emergency room physician at SRMC’s Etowah campus. “But, I think the database has really helped.”

Although there is still work to be done on the issue of opioid abuse, the first step in solving any problem is to recognize there is a problem. We’re grateful that community leaders have recognized the issue and are working across multiple platforms - from healthcare to law enforcement to even church-based programs, such as the recovery ministry at Englewood Church of God - to find solutions to a very challenging issue.

Online: https://www.dailypostathenian.com/

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