Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on violent crime in Memphis:
Violent crime rose 4.6 percent last year, with homicides spiking nearly 13 percent and rapes rising 14.6 percent in 2014, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports released last week.
While acknowledging the 2014 rise in Memphis, city officials say violent crimes are on the decrease so far this year, and that such crime has been trending down during most years since the Shelby County Crime Commission began tracking crime in 2006.
That is true, but try convincing the public otherwise when this newspaper is filled daily with reports of shootings, stabbings and violent robberies, and the first few minutes of television news programs usually are about violent crimes.
The mother of the 2-year-old girl who was shot and critically wounded as she and her mother slept on a couch shortly after midnight Wednesday at the Peppertree apartments in Whitehaven would disagree that violent crime is dropping.
No matter how the crime statistics are viewed, it cannot be argued that Memphis does not have serious violent crime problem.
Blue Crush tactics, no tolerance for violent juvenile offenders and more police officers can or will, to some extent, have an impact on suppressing criminal activity.
But suppression alone will not make a serious dent in this problem.
What is needed are more effective intervention strategies that will mitigate the conditions that produce generation after generation of violent criminals.
That said, we are not discounting the efforts of the Memphis police and Shelby sheriff's departments, Crime Commission, Shelby County Schools and the business community in their effort to fight crime in a collaborative manner.
The crime-fighting and intervention strategies in Operation: Safe Community, for example, are well thought out and most have been effective.
We are not Pollyannas. We realize that there are some people just determined to engage in criminal activity no matter their family background.
Still, a good many of the violent criminals are emerging from impoverished family conditions and neighborhoods.
For every one arrested, there are two or three more to take their place.
If Memphis, or any other major U.S. city facing the same issue, cannot find a way to stop this assembly line at its start, violent crime will continue to be a problem not only for the people who live in the neighborhoods where most of this carnage occurs, but also for those who those think they can escape it by moving away from the inner city.
Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel on opioid overdoses in the state:
Tennesseans are dying from opioid overdoses at an alarming rate, one that keeps rising even as the state has tightened regulation of pain clinics that dispense prescription painkillers.
At least 1,263 people in Tennessee died from opioid overdoses last year, up 97 over 2013. One hundred thirty-three died in Knox County. The Knoxville Police Department has responded to 176 overdose incidents since 2013, not all of which were fatal.
The state Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that allows prescribing the temporary overdose antidote naloxone hydrochloride to anyone who might have contact with an overdose victim. The law is proving effective at saving lives and is shaping up to be a rare success story in society's struggle with addiction.
The Knoxville Police Department became the first law-enforcement agency in the state to issue doses of naloxone to officers, and immediately the drug began saving lives.
Two days after officers began carrying naloxone in four overdose-prone areas of town, officers encountered a man in a parking lot foaming at the mouth and showing other signs of overdose. They gave the man a dose of naloxone, which is administered nasally, which stabilized him until he could be taken to the emergency room.
Last week KPD Officer Thomas Turner was credited with saving the lives of two women overdosing on heroin outside an East Knoxville convenience store. Turner was sent about 10 p.m. to the Weigel's store, 1325 N. Cherry St., because two women were unconscious outside the business, police said. A man standing near the women told Turner they had overdosed on heroin.
Turner decided to split the single dose of naloxone between the two women. According to police, one of the women awoke and began talking after treatment, while the other was awake and alert by the time she arrived at a hospital in an ambulance.
Naloxone's quick action in reversing the effects of an overdose and the ease of administration makes it the perfect anti-overdose tool for police. Plus, the drug is harmless if given to someone who has not ingested opiates, mitigating any officer error made in the heat of the moment.
According to state Health Department statistics compiled by the Tennessean, at least 4,585 people have died from opioid overdoses over the past four years in the Volunteer State. The scourge hits rural and urban areas alike. Overdose deaths occurred last year in 91 of Tennessee's 95 counties.
Tennessee has focused on prescription painkiller abuse in recent years. Heroin, however, is making a comeback because it is even cheaper. OxyContin, for example, costs about $80 per pill; heroin runs only about $15 a bag, making it a much less expensive alternative.
Naloxone is a life-saver. But as promising as naloxone is, it is no silver bullet. It saves lives, but for how long? More resources need to be devoted to treatment programs, especially those that keep nonviolent addicts out of jails. Drug addiction is a long-term problem that will require long-term solutions.
Johnson City Press (Tennessee) on creating a national alert system to help find missing Alzheimer's patients:
The case of an 80-year-old Kingsport man with Alzheimer's disease, who has been missing for more than a week, points to the need for a national Silver Alert System. Much like the successful Amber Alert System for missing or abducted children, Silver Alerts help to locate missing people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease or similar dementia.
Investigators believe Eugene Marshall — who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and approximately 150 pounds, with gray hair, hazel eyes and wears glasses — may have hitched a ride from someone and is no longer in Kingsport area.
If so, this is a case in which a national Silver Alert System could prove helpful.
The Alzheimer's Association website describes Amber Alert as "a well-established federally funded program with a strong community identity that involves searching for a minor who has not simply wandered off but who has been taken or abducted, calling for an immediate and broad response. Silver Alerts, at this point, are fairly new state programs that involve vulnerable adults who have wandered off by themselves."
Tennessee is one of those states with its own Silver Alert System. The state General Assembly voted in 2010 to remove a previous age requirement and include any citizen with Alzheimer's, dementia or a physical impairment under the program. Before the change, the Silver Alert System in Tennessee only applied to those 60 or older.
The Alzheimer's Association says 100,000 Tennesseans and as many as 5.2 million persons nationwide are living with Alzheimer's disease. Researchers estimate the number of Americans diagnosed with the disease could quadruple by 2050. Officials say such an increase would place a heavy burden on health care systems and caregivers around the world. How to deal with such an extraordinary strain on public health resources is something local, state and federal governments should begin addressing now.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be a 24-hour-a-day job. Sometimes symptoms, such as hallucinations or aggressive behavior, may call for much more specialized care than a family member can provide.
Alzheimer's care is a topic that Congress should take more of an interest in. Creating a national Silver Alert System would be a good start.