Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd March 11, 2020

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   House of Representatives responds to communities devastated by historic tornado outbreak

   Early this week, several communities across Tennessee suffered extensive damage as a result of an historic tornado outbreak. In the early morning hours of March 3, a powerful tornado tore through Germantown and North Nashville with wind speeds reaching 125 miles per hour. The tornado strengthened as it stayed on the ground for more than 50 miles, causing catastrophic damage across East Nashville, Donelson, Wilson and Putnam counties before finally dissipating. In all, 24 people were killed including 18 in Putnam County alone.

   In the days following the storm, the House of Representatives began working with Gov. Bill Lee, his administration, community partners and volunteer organizations to ensure those impacted by this catastrophic event had the resources needed to begin the long recovery process. Thursday in the House chamber, several members recognized the ongoing efforts of law enforcement communities and first responders for their dedication and for answering the call to serve the citizens of this state during this difficult time. Members also paused for a moment of silence and prayed for all those who had lost loved ones or had suffered damage to their properties.

   In the weeks ahead, members will continue to identify solutions that support the recovery and rebuilding efforts. They range from legislation and appropriations, to additional support services in our hardest hit areas. Members will have several opportunities to come together and participate in volunteer and community service events that support the ongoing disaster response.

Federal officials have been on the ground assessing the damage caused by the severe weather event for several days now. Gov. Lee on Thursday afternoon announced Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam counties will receive federal aid through an expedited Major Disaster Declaration.

   Through this declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide both its Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs to citizens in these three declared counties. Affected citizens can begin to register with FEMA and apply for federal assistance by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov.

   Department of Health confirms first coronavirus case in Tennessee

   The Tennessee Department of Health on Thursday morning confirmed the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Tennessee. In a joint press conference, the governor and the Tennessee Department of Health outlined actions taken by the administration and public health officials to treat the first patient— a Williamson County man with mild symptoms — in efforts to minimize further spread of the virus. The patient and his family have been isolated and are being closely monitored. Additionally, Williamson County schools are closed both Friday and Monday for extensive cleaning.   

    A Coronavirus Task Force has also been created to enhance Tennessee’s coordinated efforts to prevent, identify, and treat potential cases of COVID-19.  The task force will develop and execute strong precautionary measures, resource allocation, and emergency response plans should the needs continue to arise.

   Citizens are urged to avoid close contact with anyone who is sick, avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, utilize proper handwashing to eliminate the spread of germs, and to stay home if they are ill. For more information regarding COVID-19, visit https://www.tn.gov/health.

   House Members approve legislation adding alternative treatment to combat opioid crisis

   This week in Nashville, Republican leaders approved legislation designed to increase alternative forms of treatment to opioids for Tennessee patients. House Bill 1917 adds occupational therapy, interventional treatments and procedures, as well as non-opioid medicines to current alternative treatment methods which already include acupuncture and chiropractic care, as well as physical therapy.  

   Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to plague cities and towns across our state. However, Tennessee is making progress addressing the opioid crisis. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome decreased by 14 percent from 2017 to 2018. Additionally, four to seven-day prescriptions have decreased from 33.7 percent in April 2018 to 18.7 percent in March 2019. Eight to ten-day prescriptions were also down from 6.3 percent in April 2018 to 2.7 percent in March 2019.  House Bill 1917 will now head to the governor’s desk for his signature.

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions during the second half of the 111th General Assembly.