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Mayor David Briley Opens City’s First Addiction Summit

Brian Todd, Metro Public Health Department: 615-340-2153; Judith Byrd, Mayor’s Office: 615-862-6461

Nashville’s first-ever summit on addiction, Facing Addiction: Finding Common Ground, brought together more than 400 stakeholders and community members today to develop a common and compassionate language for understanding the disease.

“I appreciate members of the community coming together to reduce the toll addiction takes on so many of our families. To reduce the impact of this disease we must focus on the science, remove stigma and build common-ground in our community. Addiction is like any other disease, and we should all be advocates in our communities because treatment works and recovery is absolutely possible,” said Mayor David Briley.

The event, which took place at the Trevecca Community Church, provided members of the community with information on understanding addiction through a trauma and resilience framework, including basics on what addiction is, how it affects the brain, what treatment approaches are available and steps that can be taken by the community to impact the disease.

Like other communities, Nashville continues to struggle with addiction. In 2017, there were 311 drug deaths in Davidson County, a figure that has more than doubled over a five-year period.  Nationally, overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50 and two-thirds of Americans report being impacted by addiction in their own family.

Despite these alarming statistics, only about 1 in 10 with a substance abuse disorder accesses treatment, despite it being a treatable disorder.  As part of recovery month, the summit will provide an opportunity for those impacted to be heard, build community and learn more about available resources. 

“Deaths due to opioid overdose are still rising, and the opioid epidemic continues devastate the lives of many of our neighbors,” said Bill Paul, M.D., Director of Metro Public Health Department of Nashville-Davidson County. “However, we can’t forget that the roots of this crisis have been with us for a long time. Addiction has been in our homes, our communities and our workplaces in many forms. The Summit will provide an opportunity for us to re-examine what we know about addiction and how we as a community can prevent addiction and the suffering it causes.”

Commissioner Marie Williams, of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) addressed state initiatives aimed at lessening the impact of addiction on Tennesseans.

“With the support of Governor Haslam and the General Assembly, the state of Tennessee continues to make significant financial investments to increase access to substance-abuse treatment for people who would have no other option to pay for it,” said Commissioner Williams. “Through innovative new programs like our Tennessee Recovery Navigators and our Lifeline Peer Project, we are leveraging the experience of people who have overcome addiction and are living lives of recovery to show others that there is hope.”

Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy also addressed the Summit along with Dr. Dan Sumrok of the University of Tennessee Addiction Center for Addiction Science. Facing Addiction’s Michael King provided the call to action.

This free community event was planned in partnership by the Office of Mayor David Briley, the Metro Public Health Department, the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Addiction Services (TAADAS), Former U.S. Majority Leader Frist’s Office, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and other community partners.

“In addressing the issue of addiction, our communities of faith are an untapped resource that holds immense potential, “ said Monty Burks, PhD, a member of Mayor Briley’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Advisory Council and Director of Faith-Based Services for TDMHSAS. “The time, talent, and support of people of all faiths is a key to success we must utilize.”

The Summit is one of several community events taking place as a part of National Recovery Month,