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What you’ll read about: Health policy experts at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine got inspired to map how Gov. Bill Haslam’s team allocated its proposal to fight opioid abuse and addiction. They want to help people wrap their head around the issue.


Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing a $30 million initiative, TN Together, to help treat and curb the opioid abuse epidemic in the state.

The proposal, which requires legislative approval,is a mixture of legislation, administrative actions and line items in the state budget. It uses nearly $15 million in state funding and an allocation from the federal 21st Century Cures Act, which earmarked $1 billion for states to use in order to fight addiction, abuse and overdoses.

The opioid crisis, however,is complex with  roots in social, economic and medical issues. Many states, including Tennessee, and companies, including insurers across the state, are experimenting with ways to curb the flow of opioid prescriptions and get people who need help, into the right programs.

There is no consensus at the national or state level on how to best battle an epidemic that cuts through millions of families and homes.

Health policy experts at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, inspired by a recent project from the New York Times, analyzed how TN Together funding is allocated.

NYT Reporters asked 30 experts how they would spend $100 billion over five years— if they had it  and could structure programs — then visualized the approaches individually and in aggregate.

The visualization was a “really cool thought experiment” that hopefully helps people think differently about the proposal, said Kim Lovell, a health policy analyst with the department of health policy.

It’s one thing to read about a $30 million proposal. It’s another, Lovell said, to see it broken down into buckets.

The composite proposal from the NYT-surveyed experts spread the $100 billion out over four categories:

  • Treatment: 47 percent
  • Demand: 27 percent
  • Harm reduction: 15 percent
  • Supply: 11 percent

Tennessee’s budget is a fraction of the hypothetical $100 billion, and is heavily weighted toward treatment (see below for the visualizations):

  • Treatment: 82 percent
  • Supply: 8 percent
  • Demand: 6 percent
  • Harm reduction: 4 percent

“Ideally we thought how would we make progress on this really critical issue that is impacting Americans all over the country right now. It’s hard to wrap your head around what’s most important,” said Lovell. “We’re not saying ‘is that good, is that more effective or less effective?’ That’s not for me to say… Our goal is to get people to talk more about this plan and help them visualize where the funding is going.”

Health policy experts at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine analyzed how the funding will be used to fight the opioid epidemic in Gov. Bill Haslam’s $30 million ‘TN Together’ proposal. This visualizes the allocation of state funding.