GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- County leaders and medical experts recently met to discuss drug addiction and abuse in Greene County.
Cynthia Crews Thomas, DO, MPH, a Preventive Medicine and Public Health Physician for Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office said that Greene County’s drug problem is among the most pressing health issues facing the county today.
We talked with one former addict who now is trying to be part of the solution.
“My life was just in shambles,” Steve Nordegren said. “I spent many years addicted to methamphetamine, probably about a 20 year meth addiction,” Nordegren said.
Now a pastor, Nordegren can still remember the darkness of those years.
“I was trapped, I couldn’t get out, I tried a number of programs, I wanted to quit for many years but I couldn’t find no lasting freedom,” Nordegren said.
But he said finally something clicked at a program called U-Turn for Christ.
“God really started to speak to my heart and show me that ‘I am they way the truth and the life, and I can set you free Steve.’ And he did,” Nordegren said.
And 14 years ago Nordegren started U-Turn for Christ in Greene County.
“There’s a great need,” Nordegren said.
With a goal of breaking the chains of addiction, people come to the ranch for two months, work, and learn about God.
“We’ve had thousands of people come here through the ranch.”
Nordegren said over the last decade he’s seen the drug problem get worse in Greene County.
“I think it’s out of control,” Nordegren said.
“Wherever you have more rural populations or areas where access to employment is lower, you see health factors, risks go up and one of those risks is certainly substance abuse and addiction, what happens is that people don’t value their own lives,” Randall Jessee, senior vice president with specialty services of Frontier Health said. He said the problem isn’t just in Greene County.
“Most people are not aware of the significance of the problem that we have here in Northeast Tennessee,” Jessee said.
“It’s horrific really what’s going on,” Nordegren said.
Nordegren said now is the time to realize this problem is close to home.
“We’re going to be in some pretty serious times ahead if we don’t get serious about what’s going on,” Nordegren said.
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