Memphis is a rich and cultured city with a storied history sitting on the Mississippi River in Shelby County, Tennessee. A higher percentage of residents in Shelby County live below the federal poverty line (FPL) than Tennessee residents on average. The Community Health Assessment (CHA) Shelby County, Tennessee 2012-2013 reports that 20.1 percent of Shelby County residents live in poverty compared to 16.8 percent of Tennessee residents overall and a national benchmark of 14.3 percent. More Shelby County residents are uninsured as well; Shelby County has an uninsured rate of 16.3 percent versus a rate of 14.1 percent for Tennessee residents and 15.2 percent for Americans in general.
High poverty and lack of insurance can be stressors and risk factors for drug, alcohol, and mental health issues that may go untreated and escalate. Heavy consumption of alcohol is higher in Shelby County than in the state of Tennessee on average, as 11.7 percent engage in heavy drinking in Shelby County versus a state average of 8.5 percent of the population.
Survey respondent residents of Shelby County for the CHA cited poor nutrition, unsafe sex, and illegal drug use as behaviors of the highest concern in their community. Shelby County has a high rate of violent crime when compared to the rest of the state and to the nation, which may be attributed to high stress and potentially drug use. Domestic violence rates are high as well, with a rate of 2,949 per 100,000 in Shelby County versus a rate of 1,323 per 100,000 for Tennessee overall.
The CHA also publishes that 13 percent of respondents in Shelby County reported a need for mental health services and did not receive them, many of which cited an inability to afford care as a barrier to treatment. Within Memphis and Shelby County, there are multiple options for care regardless of health insurance coverage and financial ability to pay for costs.
Public and private mental health and addiction treatment services are both options for getting professional and compassionate behavioral healthcare services in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Mental Health and Drug Abuse Profile of Memphis
The rate of unemployment is high in Shelby County as 7.9 percent of the population was unemployed in 2014, which is higher than the state rate of 6.5 percent and the national rate of 6.2 percent, the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) 2016 publishes. Unemployment, poverty, and a high crime rate can all contribute to poor mental health. The CHNA publishes that 43 percent of the residents of Shelby County report feeling stressed or depressed at least once in the month prior to the survey.
The Behavioral Health Barometer: Tennessee, 2015 indicates that residents of Tennessee struggle with any mental illness and serious mental illness at rates that are similar to national averages. Between 2013 and 2014, approximately 4.7 percent of Tennessee adult residents suffered from serious mental illness compared to a 4.2 percent national average for the same time period. Mental health concerns are often closely tied with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.
Within the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (GC HIDTA), which includes counties in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Shelby County, Tennessee, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, and diverted pharmaceuticals pose the biggest threats to the region, as published by the 2015 Drug Threat Assessment.
Tennessee is experiencing record numbers of drug overdoses, up to 1,631 fatalities in 2016, a 12 percent increase over the previous year, the Tennessean reports.
Opioids are a driving force in the overdose spike, as the Prescription Drug Overdose Program 2018 Report indicates that close to three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths involved an opioid drug. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are becoming more and more of a problem, with nearly 20 percent of overdose deaths in 2016 involving fentanyl. Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid that can be made in a lab and used to “cut” other dangerous drugs like heroin, which itself was involved in over 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths in Tennessee in 2015. In Shelby County alone in 2016, approximately 188 people died from a drug overdose, and more than 2,000 individuals were treated for overdoses in local hospitals, WREG Memphis publishes.
Overdose deaths involving fentanyl spiked 450 percent in Tennessee from 2013 to 2016, making the illicitly manufactured opioid a major issue that has been classified as an emerging public health crisis.
Overdose Prevention and Reversal
Tennessee also has a “Good Samaritan law” in place, which allows any at-risk person or their loved one to obtain naloxone without a prescription and administer it to try and reverse an opioid overdose. Individuals are to go through a training first – information on which can be found here.
Many overdose deaths involve a prescription drug. As a result, legislation and efforts are being made to reduce prescription drug misuse and diversion to prevent overdose and minimize addiction. The Controlled Substance Monitoring Database (CSMD) Programhelps to track prescriptions and dispensing of potentially addictive and misused substances like opioids and benzodiazepines. This can help to decrease the risk that potentially dangerous substances are prescribed together, which can increase the odds for a fatal overdose. Problematic prescription patterns can also be recognized in an effort to minimize misuse of these addictive substances.
Tennessee also has many prescription drug take-back drop boxes where individuals can drop off unused and unwanted medications to prevent them from being misused or diverted.
In early 2018, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam revealed a plan to pump federal and state funding into a program called TN Together, which focuses on opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and law enforcement efforts, the Tennessean reports. The initiative is to expand educational programs about the opioid crisis as well as increase public access to treatment services. It also aims to enhance drug treatment programs in the state’s West Tennessee prison as well as establish recovery courts for those charged with drug-related and nonviolent crimes.
The initiative gives funding to Shelby County to develop a program to divert eligible individuals needing behavioral health treatment into a community-based program instead of jail or prison through its Pre-Arrest Diversion Infrastructure Program. Tennessee highway patrolmen are to be furnished with the opioid antagonist naloxone to help reverse an overdose as a first responder, and the initiative also calls for a five-day limit on opioid prescriptions to minimize the risk for addiction.
The Treatment Landscape in Memphis, Tennessee
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services(TDMHSAS) provides public treatment services to state residents needing behavioral healthcare. Services include prevention, detox, outpatient services, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization, halfway houses, and residential treatment services. Priority is given to pregnant women who struggle with intravenous (IV) drug use, pregnant women abusing substances, all those battling IV drug use, and individuals in need of crisis detoxification requiring medical management for withdrawal symptoms.
There are nearly 1,000 licensed behavioral health treatment providers in Tennessee, TDMHSAS publishes, and over 350,000 residents of Tennessee received publicly funded behavioral health services in FY (fiscal year) 2016. Services may be provided through state psychiatric hospitals, community-based providers, and private organizations that contract with TDMHSAS to offer care.
To provide care in Tennessee, agencies and providers are required to be licensed through the TDMHSAS, Office of Licensure. Listed below are resources for prevention, crisis, treatment, and recovery support services in Memphis and the surrounding area.
Prevention and Crisis Services
- Be the One Suicide Prevention Campaign: a suicide campaign to teach coworkers how to recognize potentially problematic behaviors and what to do
- Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN): a partnership of public and private organizations aiming to raise suicide awareness and minimize risk while supporting survivors and families
- TDMHSAS Helpline: a resource to help residents of Tennessee find local treatment services and information on mental healthcare
- Tennessee REDLINE: a toll-free information and referral helpline coordinated by the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services (TAADAS) to provide current information on resources and referrals for locals
- Prevention Alliance of Tennessee (PAT): advocates for social change while helping to educate the public in an effort to minimize and prevent substance abuse
- Mental Health Crisis Services: provides a statewide crisis line that is operated 24/7
- Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Campus Community (CHASCo): strives to prevent drug and alcohol abuse as well as minimize violence on Tennessee campuses
- Rescue 180: the Jefferson County Substance Abuse Coalition seeking to be a voice for positive change and a healthy drug-free community
- Memphis Area Prevention Coalition (MAPC): a nonprofit organization working to prevent substance abuse in Shelby County and reduce youth alcohol and drug use
- Prevention Services Provider Directory: a listing of public preventative service providers
- Shelby County Health Department: offers education, resources, and information on public health treatment services
- Memphis Mental Health Institute (MMHI): a psychiatric hospital accepting TennCare and public treatment services for those requiring care who are without means for private or other forms of care
- Alliance Healthcare Services: a not-for-profit organization offering crisis, treatment, and recovery support behavioral healthcare services for local residents
- Substance Abuse Treatment Provider Directory: a listing of public treatment services and agencies
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator: hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a tool that allows individuals to find state-regulated and licensed treatment services based on type and location
- TDMHSAS Licensed Provider Database: allows individuals to find information on local state-licensed providers based on services provided, geographical location, and more
Recovery Support Services
- Addictions Recovery Program Provider List: a listing of resources for adult Tennessee residents who meet financial and other eligibility requirements that allow them to qualify for recovery assessment, treatment plan, and other public recovery support services
- Lifeline Peer Project: helps to set up peer support and recovery organizations in local areas
- Peer Support Centers: a listing of recovery and peer support organizations for West Tennessee and serving Memphis and Shelby County
- Memphis Area Intergroup Association (MAIA): information on local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and the local chapter of the 12-Step peer recovery support group
It’s Never Too Late to Get Help
Take Action Now