Celebrating our Substance Abuse PREVENTION Coalition
One of the first messages I shared in this space was about the creation of a Community Substance Abuse Coalition.
With the help of State Rep. Barry Doss, we had received our first annual grant from the state Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) for that purpose - specifically, to prevent substance use among our youth.
We faced a growing crisis. In Tennessee, drug-related crime had risen 400% in five years. The number of newborns with drug dependencies had soared by 1,000% in ten years. Lost productivity from prescription drug abuse cost the state’s economy $143 million in one year.
Problems in Lawrence County were part of those statistics. With our grant came advice from TDMHSAS to take time to design a program that would meet this county’s specific challenges. A volunteer committee did that and nine months later, in June 2016, hired Jenny Golden as Director of the Lawrence County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Fast-forward to November 5, 2019 and the Coalition’s Inaugural Recognition Banquet. In addition to honoring all those who have been part of its success, a new name was launched: The Lawrence County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, LCSAP.
“The word ‘prevention’ adds a more accurate description of the work we’re doing,” Golden said. “There is, of course, overlap in treatment and recovery efforts, and we want to increase access to recovery as well. But our primary goal is to create a positive culture in Lawrence County to help reduce substance abuse in youth and adults.”
To do that, the Coalition works with every sector of our community to promote protective factors – those that keep substance use from occurring; and reducing risk factors – those that promote or allow substance use.
That work involves many people, which is the true definition of a Coalition. “LCSAP would not be possible without people investing their time and money to help make this happen,” said Dr. John Beasley, who has served as Chairman since the Coalition’s start. “For this we are eternally grateful.” Volunteers gave a total of 236 hours to Coalition work over the past year.
The recognition banquet honored representatives from twelve different sectors that play a role the work of LCSAP: youth, parents, business, media, schools, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, civic/volunteer groups, healthcare, state/local Government, other substance abuse services and faith-based organizations.
Sector representatives are community leaders who provide communication between the people they represent and the coalition; serve as positive role models; and support the coalition’s mission by sponsoring, attending, and/or promoting LCSAP meetings and events.
No local tax money goes toward the Coalition’s work. TDMHSAS provides $60,000 a year; a 2018 federal Drug Free Communities grant is providing $125,000 a year for five years and with re-certification, five more. Those funds allowed Golden to hire Project Director Trea Dunnavant, who is a great addition to the program.
LCSAP gives manpower and materials to all kinds of efforts that build the positive and diminish the negative. Grant money is used to purchase Lifeskills curriculum for our school system’s 6th through 8th grade students, and personal medical lockboxes (920 so far) to keep prescription meds out of the wrong hands. The Coalition helped establish permanent medication drop boxes at St. Joseph, Ethridge, and Loretto Police Departments, adding to those already present at the Lawrenceburg Police and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Departments.
LCSAP purchased t-shirts for participants in the school system’s Work Ethics Matter program, and materials that our schools and community used to recognize Red Ribbon Week, a prevention campaign observed across the nation each October.
Working with school system staff, LCSAP helps coordinate an afterschool “Power Hour” at South Lawrence, Ingram Sowell, and New Prospect elementary schools, Summertown and Coffman middle schools. Students participate in enrichment activities and learn how to care for their developing bodies and brains. The Coalition also helps sponsor an annual Community Baby Shower event that gives gifts and education to new and expectant mothers.
LCSAP has worked with law enforcement to establish guidelines for compliance checks at retailers that sell alcohol. It sponsored a conference for local physicians in August, holds town hall meetings to raise awareness, and training sessions for people who want to learn how to use the opioid overdose reversal nasal spray Narcan.
Although its primary mission isn’t recovery, LCSAP has made connections with two services that get people to those programs. Alan Burnette with Lifeline (931-308-7689) and Randy Garza with New Vision Ministries (731-926-0741) have helped 172 people from Lawrence County get to recovery services this year.
LCSAP also organized a Faith-Based Coalition that helps ministers and congregations support people struggling with a substance use disorder. Earlier this month Golden and I shared that story at a TDMHSAS Faith + Recovery Conference at Trevecca Community Church in Nashville.
We will continue to see LCSAP involved in efforts that support positive, healthy lifestyles in Lawrence County. These include leadership and career readiness for youth; increasing support and skills for parents; encouraging affordable childcare and community resources to help bring families out of poverty; and after-school activities that help increase youth involvement in positive activities.
You should also look for upcoming community-wide training opportunities concerning the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and suicide prevention, events that are collaborations with A Kid’s Place and the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
Substance use is a “crockpot problem,” as Dr. Beasley called it, one that is made up of many elements and has developed over time. That makes it a difficult issue to address and even harder to quantify success.
Thanks to the national, state, and local attention paid to the opioid crisis, however, progress has been made. Armed with more information about the dangers they pose, physicians and patients have made a conscious effort to reduce the number of opioids that are prescribed. In Lawrence County alone, the number of opioid prescriptions decreased 23.7% between 2015 and 2018.
Those are significant numbers, and I want to thank the individuals whose choices created that success. Many thanks to LCSAP for the support it gives to people choosing the positive in their lives.



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