A recent survey conducted in the state of Tennessee showed an alarming 373,000 civilians, over the age of 18, acknowledged having an alcohol dependency or illicit drug addiction. Even more alarming, among youth ages 12-17, 26,000 admitted to alcohol and drug dependence (Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services). Communities and counties all over Tennessee are committed to acting, and local anti-drug coalitions are playing a huge role in the fight to reduce dependence on harmful and lethal drugs.

The team at Derry Software would like to highlight the efforts of local community coalitions in their fight against the overdose epidemic happening in the state of Tennessee. Specifically, the effort of the Sevier County anti-drug coalition, Sevier County C.A.R.E.S. (Coalition for Addiction Recovery & Education Services). Their focus is on prevention, education, and recovery for all members, as well as youth, in the Sevier County area. This coalition consists of members from all areas of society, including youth, parents, the business community, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, religious organizations, healthcare, local government, civic and volunteer groups, and the media.

Nicole Ogle, Executive Director of Sevier County C.A.R.E.S, told us “Coalitions increase the efforts of other sectors of society by ensuring that they include not only the “movers and shakers” but the boots on the ground, who have the potential to help spread the prevention message.” Nicole believes there are numerous reasons for the spike in overdoses in Tennessee. Among these reasons are lack of community education, community awareness, mental health support/facilities, and law enforcement support/funding at a federal level. Nicole states that supply, demand, and trafficking also affect this.

Nicole states that Sevier County C.A.R.E.S has had significant success with community collaboration, local government support, and positive law enforcement partnerships. Specifically, in efforts to combat the overdose epidemic, they have successfully implemented their school curriculum into all 27 schools within Sevier County, educating over 14,000 students K-12th grade about substance abuse. They recently received the funds to purchase the Botvin LifeSkills comprehensive, evidence-based substance abuse and violence program for further education and prevention efforts. Sevier County C.A.R.E.S has also partnered closely with local law enforcement and first responders to successfully train/supply them with the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone.  Media campaigns, billboards, and advertisements are placed around the community, stating the importance of dropping off unwanted/expired medications and announcements of DEA drug take events.

The success of local anti-drug community coalitions is dependent on members of society coming together towards a common goal. Different sectors of society need to have access to information and resources to share that information in an effort for coalitions to successfully make a change. Trends and data from local law enforcement agencies and prevention specialists need to be shared. Funding from the community, as well as the government, is essential to the health of coalitions. If you are looking to make a change in the Tennessee overdose epidemic, contact TDMHSAS for a map of local coalitions and advocate for primary prevention funding.

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