SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A local organization aimed at tackling the prescription drug abuse crisis in East Tennessee will soon put a crucial overdose reversal drug in the hands of more people.
Tennessee law enforcement and health leaders say this region has some of the highest drug overdose rates in the country.
The Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition received a state grant to bring the opioid overdose drug, Naloxone, to East Tennessee.
That grant is called the State Targeted Response Grant, and because of it, the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition says Naloxone will be widely available to the entire community in a way it never was before.
As the Coalition’s newest employee, Brianne Dunning works as Regional Overdose Prevention Specialist, bringing awareness to the region’s opioid crisis. But for her, the work is so much more than a job.
“I lost a loved one to opioid overdose,” Dunning said. “My bother passed away in 2009 when he was using OxyContin.”
Now, Dunning is responsible for teaching people how to use the lifesaving opioid overdose drug Naloxone – a drug that the region is one step closer to seeing more of thanks to a new state grant.
“The purpose of the grant is to respond to the overdose crisis that Tennessee has,” Alice McCaffrey, Director of the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition, said.
“I’ve put in an order for over 5,000 doses just to be brought to this region,” said Dunning. “All of the verbiage state-wise in our contracts has been fixed, and everything has been approved and sent off. It should be any day now.”
Dunning says so far the orders have come mostly from law enforcement.
“By the time I’m finished every single police department and sheriff’s department in this region will carry,” Dunning said.
It’s work that Dunning is proud of, fulfilling a mission made so important to her, when she lost her best friend.
“I feel like anybody that can be saved can have their own testimony and go forward and help other people,” said Dunning. “Opioids do not have to be the end of their life.”
After the Naloxone arrives, Dunning says she will start training police officers as well as people working in recovery treatment areas.
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