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Project Garners $60K for Drug Prevention Coalition

JOHNSON CITY (June 9, 2016) – A $60,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services is helping a relatively new organization better spread its substance abuse prevention efforts throughout Carter County.

Angie Hagaman, program director of the Diversity-promoting Institutions Drug Abuse Research Program at East Tennessee State University, came to the university after previously working for a drug-prevention coalition. Such coalitions aim to employ evidence-based strategies to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse. The coalition model works by bringing together all sectors of a community to create social change.

“Coalitions convene all the stakeholders – parents, youth, schools, businesses, media, law enforcement, treatment providers, faith – to work together to establish community-wide strategies for prevention,” Hagaman said. “When I found out Carter County didn’t even have a coalition, I was concerned because Carter County and East Tennessee are disproportionality impacted by drug abuse and it is such a pervasive issue in that community.”

So, Hagaman decided to start a coalition in Carter County through her efforts as part of ETSU’s Prescription Drug Abuse/Misuse Working Group. With no available funding to start off with in 2015, the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition (CCDP) worked on projects that did not require money, such as engaging pharmacies to help with a safe medication storage and disposal campaign and partnering with the Elizabethton Police Department to conduct a drug take-back event in Elizabethton.

Last summer, a $5,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Disparity Elimination allowed the CCDP to implement an Overdose Prevention Project that increased access to and awareness of Naloxone, a life-saving opioid antagonist.

Now, the one-year funding of $60,000 will allow the coalition to hire a coordinator and “create a greater awareness in the community” of its efforts to reduce substance abuse through collaborative planning, community action and policy advocacy, Hagaman said. The funding will help the CCDP stretch its efforts to not only address prescription drug abuse, but also tobacco and underage and binge drinking prevention.

Coalition staff will provide training for alcohol vendors and servers to reduce the number of failed alcohol compliance checks in Carter County. “Forty-four percent of surveyed outlets failed during the most recent round of compliance checks,” Hagaman noted.

Additionally, the CCDP’s donated office space located at 546 E. Elk Ave., Elizabethton, will host a number of evidence-based parenting and prevention programs including youth tobacco cessation classes.

“We also want to be open on Saturdays for folks to drop in and learn more about what we are doing,” Hagaman said. “This epidemic is really hurting communities, and the only way we can improve on it is to work together.”

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