Addiction Recovery Programs Advance | Local News

Drug overdoses in Tennessee increased in the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020.

Agencies providing drug treatment are moving forward with recovery programs, members of the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition said Thursday.

More than 20 members of the coalition met in person for the first time in more than 16 months and were briefed on Thursday of several programs designed to treat or prevent drug addiction.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept all coalition meetings virtual last year. The last time the members met at the Greene County Health Department was in February 2020.

In online coalition meetings through 2020, healthcare providers said the pandemic made it difficult to provide treatment.


Figures from the Centers Disease Control and Prevention and those collected by the Greene County Health Department show why members of the coalition are worried.

The CDC reported last week that drug overdose deaths in the United States totaled more than 93,300 in 2020, a 29.4% increase from 2019. More than 69,700 overdose deaths involved opioids , according to preliminary data released by the CDC.

Although the data is still preliminary, the CDC has released the provisional number of drug overdose deaths for 2020.

Fatal drug overdoses in Tennessee in 2020 total more than 3,100, a 44.1% increase from 2019, CDC preliminary data shows.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health Drug Overdose Dashboard, 2,089 Tennessee residents died from drug overdoses statewide in 2019, and there were 16,670 emergency room visits for non-fatal overdoses. .

In the northeastern Tennessee region, which includes Greene, Washington, Unicoi, Carter, Hawkins, Hancock, Johnson, and Sullivan counties, there were 107 fatal drug overdoses and 801 visits for non-fatal outpatient overdoses in 2019 .

There were 18 fatal drug overdoses in Greene County in 2019 and 143 visits for non-fatal outpatient overdoses.

“The trend of increasing overdoses through 2019 combined with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has created what data suggests it will be the deadliest year for overdoses,” the director said Thursday. from Greene County Health Department Lori Moore.

Moore noted some trends in the state health department’s annual overdose report summary for 2021.

  • Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids fell for the third consecutive year in Tennessee, from a high of 739 deaths in 2016 to 515 in 2019.
  • The rate of fentanyl overdose has increased significantly from 11.6 per 100,000 population in 2018 to 16.8 per 100,000 in 2019, an increase of 44.8%. For the first year, fentanyl – a synthetic narcotic 50 times more potent than morphine and sometimes sold to unsuspecting buyers like heroin or other opioids – has been implicated in more than half of fatal overdoses.
  • Deaths involving stimulants other than cocaine, a category that includes deaths primarily from methamphetamine, have increased dramatically over the past five years, from 112 deaths in 2015 to 651 in 2019.

Sheriff Wesley Holt told the coalition the pandemic has cut off the flow of chemicals from China to Mexico used to make methamphetamine, driving up street prices and causing some to turn to heroin, fentanyl and other drugs.

“We’re starting to see it pick up,” Holt said. “We are trying to get these drugs off the streets. We can’t keep up. It’s not just us, it’s all over the United States.

Craig Duncan, director of the Judicial District’s 3rd Drug Task Force, said officers “were looking to breach” the methamphetamine trafficking market.

“With Covid starting to die out, the supply of methamphetamine will increase,” he said.


Inpatient beds and other treatments for clients will soon be available as part of the Ballad Health Strong Futures program.

Strong Futures takes a holistic approach to care and treatment for mothers with diagnosed substance abuse disorder and their families.

Melissa Willett, housing supervisor and behavioral health specialist, told the coalition the program takes a “two-generation approach” to meeting the needs of mothers and children.

Treatment for fathers will also be offered in the future as the program expands, Willett said.

Strong Futures emphasizes the development of parenting skills, academic success, workforce development, client well-being and “financial literacy”.

The program, which serves an area of ​​10 counties, helps pregnant women or mothers 18 and older who suffer from substance abuse or need other behavioral health services.

The former Takoma Regional Hospital, now known as Strong Futures, is undergoing renovations to provide housing for clients.

“We take a hospital and turn it into a house,” Willett said.

Outpatient services are currently offered at the former Takoma Medical Clinic on East Vann Road.

Another goal of Strong Futures is to reduce the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition in which an infant experiences withdrawal from a substance to which they have been exposed in the womb. Recent statistics show that approximately 36 babies born per 1,000 live births in the region suffer from NAS.

Multidisciplinary “treatment teams” will be assigned to a mother and her family and will work with them for two to two years.

The system was designed for 12 beds, but the needs are much greater, said Willett.

“We are already asking for more beds,” she said. “We’re open, but we’re just limited in beds now. We do not have all the amenities that we will have.

The 12-bed hospital establishment will open in August. Customers can stay for up to 15 months. The goal is to “save lives,” said Willett.

“Some of these people are on the verge of death,” she said.

General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr., probation officers, law enforcement and other justice system actors have expressed their willingness to work with Strong Futures to place clients in the program. rather than in prison.

“It’s nice to see people in the courtroom helping (potential clients) navigate the system,” said Bailey, co-chair of the anti-drug coalition.

Communication leading to “full recovery” is the ultimate goal of Strong Futures, said Willett.

“We hope to reduce this burden on families. We’re trying to connect it all. There are so many barriers to getting (treatment) that we are trying to overcome, ”she said.

Lea Anne Spradlen, a “community navigator” with Strong Futures, said many clients lack family support and other resources.

“They need a safe place to go. They just need direction, ”Spradlen said. “We hope to make a huge difference in the community.

Bailey said the Isaiah 117 home in Greeneville was a welcome addition for agencies that[lacechildreninfosterhomeschildren[lacentlesenfantsdansdesfoyersd’accueil[lacechildreninfosterhomeschildren

Isaiah 117 Home provides “physical and emotional support in a safe, loving home to children awaiting foster care,” according to the association’s Facebook page.

“We had no idea it was going to be used (that much), but it’s almost everyday,” Bailey said. “It was a blessing for the community to have this house.”

Brandy Cannon, case manager with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, said the pandemic has overloaded the social service system, resulting in long hours trying to help people with issues such as drug addiction, l financial insolvency, depression and pregnancies.

Cannon agreed that there is a need for programs like Strong Futures. She said the drugs were wreaking havoc in the community, including pregnant women.

“It’s not getting any better. We are dealing with methamphetamine, ”she said. “We are heartbroken, but they need help. “


Linda Flanagan, program assistant for Greene County Extension, which coordinates the Tennessee PROMPT initiative, updated the coalition on the Communities That Care program.

PROMPT stands for Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Through Partnerships and Training. The PROMPT program seeks to identify the factors that put young people at risk by using the “Community That Cares” model.

“Concerning” risk factors for the community during the pandemic year 2020 to 2021 include drug use, depression and family conflict, Flanagan said.

University of Tennessee Extension, in partnership with the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition, East Tennessee State University and the University of Washington received a two-year grant called PROMPT TN.

The grant was announced in 2020. The associated planning has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planning steps to address concerns in Greene County “are advancing at the right pace,” Flanagan said.

The process includes a needs assessment survey completed by 866 students from Greene County schools to help determine the need for youth prevention services in areas such as substance abuse, delinquency, anti-social behavior and violence. .

Bailey said he saw an increase in adolescent depression during the pandemic.

The CTC Board of Directors will meet in August to discuss the survey results with a view to setting priorities. The results will be shared with the drug coalition and the community ahead of the next phase, which involves the implementation of programs to address the identified risk and protective factors, said Flanagan.

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