Local coalition aims to stop drug problem before it begins

Holly Viers • Jan 1, 2018 at 2:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — As opioid abuse continues to plague the nation, finding a solution to the problem has never been more important.

That’s why the Sullivan County Anti-Drug (SCAD) Coalition, directed by Alice McCaffrey, is working to stop prescription drug abuse and other addictions before they even begin.

“Prevention really is important,” McCaffrey said. “Most of the time, people don’t really get that there is a problem … until it is a problem affecting their family, so there has to be folks that are working on prevention.”

What is the SCAD Coalition?

The SCAD Coalition is a community of people working to assess the substance abuse problem and eliminate it via education, advocacy and other programs. It receives most of its funding in the form of three grants from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

• The first grant, which deals with alcohol and tobacco use, specifically targets youth ages 12-25. This grant is supplemented by funds from the health department’s tobacco settlement funds, which aim to start youth coalitions to avoid tobacco products.

• The second grant specifically addresses preventing prescription drug abuse. McCaffrey said this grant funds the “Count It! Lock It! Drop It!” campaign, which encourages people to keep their needed medications safely locked away and to dispose of any unneeded medicines.

As part of this campaign, the SCAD Coalition promotes annual drug take-back events. This year, the group partnered with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and the TBI Dangerous Drug Task Force to hold the first ever rural take-back day, which was well-received in the community.

• The final grant focuses on Naloxone, a medication that can rapidly reverse opioid overdose in an emergency. McCaffrey said this grant helps the coalition train first responders and family members of addicts about when and how to give Naloxone to people who need it.

In addition to the three state grants and the health department funds, the SCAD Coalition also received funds this year from both the Bristol and Kingsport United Way.

What else does the coalition do?

Along with the initiatives mentioned above, the coalition:

• Offers deactivation pouches for people who can’t make it to one of the four drug take-back boxes in the county. McCaffrey said, “They can put their meds that they don’t need anymore into this pouch with some warm water, shake it and then it is perfectly safe for the environment and there’s no longer any worry that anybody would get into it. It just deactivates the drug.”

• Partners with other coalitions in the region to hold a medical forum for health care providers.

• Advocates for legislation that will help solve the substance abuse problem.

• Works to prevent childhood trauma, which McCaffrey said can lead to future substance abuse.

What are the plans for the future?

Though the coalition is already hard at work, McCaffrey recognizes there is more to be done. SCAD will be applying for more grant funds to expand its current programs and start new ones.

“It’s a lot cheaper to solve this on the (prevention) end than to do it on the treatment end,” McCaffrey said, “and it is a lot less painful to families.”

For more information, visit www.scadc.org.