New study: States struggling the most with opioid addictions not getting enough funding

Image: WTVC

Some counties in our viewing are fighting the opioid epidemic with empty pockets.

A new study says six counties in our area did not get any federal funding to help with the problem, even though we live in a state with one of the highest prescription rates in the country.

Before Aaron Ledwell became a counselor at Adult and Teen Challenge in Chattanooga, he was a resident.

"Whether it was alcohol, pills, you name it," Ledwell said of his addiction.

"As much as I tried, I just could not stop."

He was addicted for 18 years until a scary night he had while high in 2015.

"I walked 25 miles through Chattanooga in the middle of the night by myself thinking I was lost," he said.

Ledwell got help.

But a new study from the Bipartisan Policy Center shows not everyone is as fortunate.

40 counties in Tennessee did not receive direct funding in 2017 for treatment programs.

"You need to continue paying attention to vulnerable regions such as rural America that may have limited work force capacity and treatment infrastructure," said Dr. Anand Parekh, the chief medical adviser for the center.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, Hamilton County received 180 million dollars over the last two years to help with prevention, treatment and recovery.

But as far as the outlying counties go, six in our viewing area received no federal funding for opioid treatment centers in 2017. They were Bledsoe, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie.

"They know in the federal government they have a long term committed partner and then I think you'll see some of the decision-making change," said Dr. Parekh.

"Putting more money into places that are actually trying to fix the problem is so needed," said Ledwell.

Those places help save lives and Ledwell believes additional funding will help save even more.

"With people who are willing to invest their time, money energy, love into helping these people who are broken," he said.

One goal for Tennessee's rural areas, according to the study, is expanding access to telemedicine.

So addicts can still get treatment over the phone, even if they do not live close to a treatment facility.

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