Report | August 29, 2018

Caring for Young Victims of the Opioid Crisis in Tennessee

Early childhood care and education programs are powerful tools in battling the opioid epidemic in Tennessee

Young children are often-overlooked victims of the opioid crisis that is ravaging our state. In 2016, Tennessee had 1,200 opioid-related deaths, which amounts to 18 per every hundred thousand people - which is a third higher than the national average. Parental substance abuse is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) that imperils children’s citizen readiness–their ability to grow up healthy, well-educated and ready for productive lives. The opioid epidemic is also wreaking havoc on our communities, threatening public safety and national security, impacting workplaces, and tearing families apart.

We see firsthand the impact opioid abuse has on families. Investing in crucial prevention services is key to steering the next generation away from addiction and towards productive lives.

David Rausch, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

High-quality early care and education programs, including home visiting, child care, Head Start, and preschool, provide a powerful approach to helping children impacted by the opioid crisis. In Tennessee, participants in the Voluntary Pre-K Program had higher school readiness outcomes at the end of pre-K, and were half as likely to be held back in kindergarten, compared to children who did not participate.

In 2016, the state legislature passed the Pre-K Quality Act that required the Office of Early Education to develop a definition of quality with which all programs must comply. By investing in these programs, we can help ensure these children are able to avoid crime, raise families of their own, and contribute to the workforce, including serving in the military if they choose.


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