NASHVILLE (WATE) – Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch got emotional Thursday while sharing a personal connection to the drug epidemic.
Rausch gave his account while speaking to the state legislature’s opioid task force, saying this is an issue that affects all of us – every family and every community.
“You talk about the NAS issue, neonatal abstinence syndrome. I’m personally going through this. I have a stepson who is an addict. His girlfriend is an addict. They just had a baby who I’m now raising – six months,” said Rausch as he broke down into tears. “Thank God to Children’s Hospital.”
Eventually, Rausch was able to continue his presentation and answer questions. Earlier he told lawmakers about his experience with opioids since becoming chief, from fighting pill mills to addiction at all levels including the downfall of Judge Richard Baumgartner and even one of his own officers arrested in a drug ring.
In an interview with WATE 6 On Your Side’s Kelly Reinke, Rausch did not want to go into any details about his family situation, but because of his experience, says the epidemic is an issue he’s very passionate about.
“I am not alone. there are thousands of others like me who are dealing with this on a personal level, that have family members that are dealing with this. You do everything you can to help them,” he said.
He believes this drug epidemic is worse than any other because it deals with legal substances, which is making abuse widespread.
“Demand is huge. Then, the return on the dollar, on the investment of the pill is unbelievable. There is an economic thing we are battling as well,” said Rausch.
He said investigations on this epidemic are challenging. He said it is difficult to prove a doctor is over-prescribing. Sometimes, it requires finding a doctor who would be willing to testify.
He believes one of the biggest problems is that not many doctors are speaking up against “bad actors.” Not seeing any call to action from medical professionals frustrates him, he said.
“You haven’t seen people protesting because medical professionals are killing people,” said Rausch.
Rausch says he is looking for opportunities to help his family struggling with abuse, but something he believes the community needs is access to treatment.
The chief also pointed out the difference in attitude from his department towards people who overdose. He says now when officers deal with someone who has overdosed, they see that person as a victim rather than a criminal. He says based on his personal experience, getting hooked on these drugs is not a choice.
“Somebody doesn’t choose to be an addict,” he said.
When asked about his position on a Tennessee bill looking to legalize medical marijuana, Rausch said he strongly opposed.
“How insane. How do you think adding another drug to this is going to help?” he said.