East Tennessee State University College of Public Health drug-abuse research program director Ms. Angela Hagaman and Ms. Stephanie Mathis, a doctoral student in the department of community and behavioral health, have partnered with the Carter County Health Department and Red Legacy Recovery to support a newly formed Carter County Drug Prevention coalition. The collaborative team, an extension of the East Tennessee Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse (PDAM) Working Group, applied for and received funding through the Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Disparity Elimination to implement the Overdose Prevention Project (OPP) in Carter County. OPP will increase access to and awareness of Naloxone, a life-saving opioid antagonist.
“The Carter County Overdose Prevention Project represents the essence of public health in that it requires formal partnerships among multiple sectors of the community to disseminate evidence-based interventions that result in lasting community change and improve overall health and life expectancy,” Ms. Hagaman indicated. Drug poisoning is now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Carter County and east Tennessee are disproportionately impacted by prescription drug abuse and its devastating consequences including death by overdose. Naloxone, if given soon enough after drug exposure can displace opiates from receptor sites in the brain and can reverse respiratory depression, which is usually the cause of overdose deaths. Unfortunately, many health care professionals and emergency response personnel are not well-informed about how to prescribe, access, and use the lifesaving drug.
“Eighty-two (82) people in Carter County lost their lives due to drug poisoning between 2006 and 2012,” Ms. Hagaman said, “yet many emergency response personnel and the general public do not yet know about Naloxone, a life-saving antidote that can be prescribed to anyone upon request. I am confident that this funded project will save lives both in the short and long term.” Evidence demonstrates that communities with Naloxone education programs significantly decrease opioid overdose deaths. Fred Brason II, CEO and Founder of Project Lazarus and collaborator for the SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Toolkit, will facilitate community training and outreach as a component of the project.
East Tennessee’s PDAM Working Group has developed a long-range vision for a Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention at the university. In 2012, the Working Group began meeting regularly to develop research, training, service and development projects that would grow into such a Center. Their work resulted in a large-scale grant from the National Institute for Drug Abuse (part of the National Institutes of Health) in 2013. The PDAM Working Group now has multiple funded projects that address this epidemic.