When my sister Betsy and I visited Legislative Plaza in Nashville last week to testify on behalf of Henry’s Law, we had the privilege of meeting and speaking briefly with Knox County’s (relatively) new District Attorney, Charme Allen. Ms. Allen spoke to the House Crimes and Justice Committee before I did, asking legislators to change the law so that sales of so-called “analog drugs” like fentanyl can be subject to homicide charges and also asking that poly-drug deaths (almost all OD victims have multiple drugs in their bodies when they die) could also be investigated for drug-induced homicide charges. She was poised, in command and knew her facts.
I’ve been hearing great things about her, and even in her brief appearance before the Committee I could see where her smart, tough reputation comes from. She has a lot of personal charisma and – important to me – her dedication to facing the opiate OD epidemic in Knox County head-on was on full display.
Ms. Allen stayed in the Committee room to hear the other speakers, including me, and after the meeting adjourned, my sister Betsy and I approached her to introduce ourselves. We thanked her for her progressive approach to dealing with the OD epidemic and I explained that my teenager had died in just this way. She was very compassionate and invited me to come to the DA’s office and add an ornament to the tree that they now have just outside the DA’s office commemorating local victims of overdose.
WOW! What a change from the last DA’s approach to this critical issue. I will definitely be taking an ornament for Henry to add to the tree this week but in the meantime, I checked out what else I could find on the DA’s site related to the raging local opiate epidemic. Not surprisingly based on Ms. Allen’s obvious passion for this issue, the revamped Knox County DA’s website is strongly focused on the OD explosion in our community.
For starters, the opening page of the DA’s site now has an “Overdose Counter” with the ever-rising number of suspected local OD deaths in real time in any given month.
Additionally, the site has an entire, interactive page devoted entirely to the local overdose plague and explaining specifically what the Knox County DA’s Office is doing to address it, including the organization of a death-related task force created specifically to address the overdose scourge.
As the parent of an overdose victim I simply cannot tell you how meaningful it is to me to see a local DA in office who finally gets the enormity of this issue and who isn’t afraid to tackle it head-on, using hard facts and data. I also very much appreciate that Ms. Allen clearly sees our loved ones lost to overdose as the victims that they are.
I am expecting great things from Ms. Allen and her staff, and if anyone in our family or the 4k-plus strong Henry’s Fund Facebook community can do anything to help her efforts, we stand at the ready.