The SMART Policy Network periodically publishes research findings, data and best practices in the form of policy briefs.

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Continuity of Care

The Need for Continuity of Care in the Criminal Justice System

People with mental health and substance use disorders who would benefit from treatment are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. It has been reported that 63% of individuals in jail and 58% of individuals in prison meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder, and 36% of the population serving a state prison sentence were being treated for a mental health disorder, which is 17% higher than the general population in Tennessee. Justice-involved individuals with mental health and substance use disorders have a higher risk of recidivism, especially when they lack access to medications and behavioral health treatments both during and after incarceration. However, despite this heightened prevalence and treatment need, criminal justice entities rarely have the resources needed to ensure at-risk individuals receive continuous evidence-based care. Given Tennessee’s incarceration rate has risen to 10% above the national average, and almost half of all incarcerated individuals are rearrested within three years of release, it is critical for individuals to have access to continuous care both during incarceration and at reentry into the community.

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July 2022


Naloxone Access

Naloxone is a life-saving opioid antagonist that can reverse an opioid overdose. Tennessee law makes it available to anyone with or without a prescription and protects from civil suit any physician who prescribes it, and any bystander who administers it to those who they believe are experiencing an overdose. Production delays, among other factors, have led to a nationwide shortage of naloxone. This has increased the urgency of improving naloxone distribution policies.

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February 2022

Youth Prevention

Preventing Youth Substance Misuse in Tennessee

Adolescent substance misuse and its consequences continue to be a challenge in Tennessee communities. To address the problem of substance misuse in Tennessee’s youth and young adults, it is helpful to look at how widespread the issue is; what factors contribute to use; and how it affects communities, families, and individuals. This brief highlights the nature of the youth substance misuse problem in Tennessee and provides recommendations on how the state can move forward with further investments to help address youth substance use prevention.

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October 2021


Better Broadband for Better Health

Broadband access is increasingly seen as a “super-determinant” of health, affecting not only healthcare delivery but educational and employment opportunities. When it comes to the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD), telehealth directly addresses the most common access barriers faced by rural patients. However, telehealth is not being utilized in rural areas as much as it could be, due to a lack of broadband internet access and affordability.

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UPDATE: Public Broadband is Coming to Knoxville

At the end of June, 2021, Knoxville City Council voted in favor of the public broadband plan proposed by Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB).  Over the next ten years, KUB will lay fiber optic cable and begin offering public broadband internet as a fifth utility.

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March 2021


The Cost of Stigma

Substance Use Disorder (SUD), formerly known as addiction or substance abuse, is a treatable medical condition, but fewer than 1 in 10 Tennesseans with SUD receive treatment. Stigma can lead to a view of those with SUD as weak-willed, unmotivated, and unlikely to recover. However, the reality is that about 60% of people with SUD experience full remission. Treatment is also fiscally sound: every $1 spent on evidence-based treatment for SUD saves $12 in healthcare and criminal justice costs.

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August 2021

Criminal Justice Reform

Substance Misuse and Incarceration in Tennessee

Corrections in Tennessee cost over $1 billion annually due to a rising incarceration rate. The state’s increasing incarceration rate is related to the growth in substance misuse which on its own costs Tennessee $2 billion each year and leads to over $1 billion in lost income from a shrinking work force. Prioritizing evidence-based treatment that targets the underlying medical and behavioral issues driving addictive habits for justice-involved individuals could simultaneously address rising recidivism, reincarceration, and growing substance misuse.

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May 2021


Telehealth Improves Access to Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

About 400,000 Tennesseans have substance use disorder (SUD). Only 1 in 10 Tennesseans who need treatment for SUD obtain it, mainly due to local provider shortages, long distances between a small number of treatment centers, stigma and cost. Telehealth directly addresses barriers and improves access to care.

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January 2021



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