Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $471,807)
ID O-BJA-2021-94008 -Subcategory 1b
Like the majority of the United States, Tennessee has been significantly and negatively impacted by the opioid epidemic. According to the latest CDC data, Tennessee was in fact reported to have the 11th highest rate of overdose deaths per 100,000 population. In Tennessee, the medicolegal death investigation system is a decentralized, county based medical examiner (CME) system. Each county in the State of Tennessee is required to have a Tennessee-licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) appointed by the county mayor to act as the county medical examiner. Some county medical examiners in Tennessee have no support staff to assist with death investigation. Most Tennessee counties that do have medical examiner investigators, outside of the five (5) counties in which a regional forensic center is located, utilize their Emergency Medical Services’ personnel as medical examiner investigators. The majority of Tennessee County Medical Examiner’s Offices are understaffed and poorly funded. It is our intention to use this year’s award to improve tracking, analysis, and dissemination of medicolegal data as relates to drug-related deaths and to, in turn, improve death investigation procedures within the jurisdiction of Rutherford County. This will be accomplished by funding of specialized and dedicated personnel to implement and manage the new State Medical Examiner-provided comprehensive case management system by collecting real-time comprehensive information regarding death investigations to include specifically overdose and drug-related deaths; and to form a comprehensive opioid, stimulant, and substance abuse fatality review by liaison with the OSCME, law enforcement officials, public health agencies, and other interested entities. It is the intent of this applicant that the Rutherford County EMS’s Death Investigation Team will become an exemplar upon which other Tennessee counties that are not home to a regional forensic center can model. The outcome of the aforementioned is anticipated to have a positive impact not only on the drug overdose mortality surveillance performed by this county but throughout the State.