East Tennessee State University has been awarded a $500,000 state appropriation to bolster the work of its Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment. On Thursday,ETSU leaders hosted a reception to thank several state officials for their efforts in garnering the funding.
“The lives of thousands of Tennesseans are going to be positively impacted because of your leadership,” said Dr. Brian Noland, ETSU president. “This is an issue that is in all of our back yards. It runs through our homes, our schools, our churches. It is here and we are an institution that is trying to do our part to make a difference.”
Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell noted that after establishing a task force in 2017 to address the opioid epidemic, the first place she decided to visit was ETSU. At a forum held on campus last year, Harwell and members of the task force on opioid and prescription drug abuse learned more about the epidemic from ETSU experts as well as efforts underway to combat it.
“I believe ETSU’s center can truly be the model for this state. You are laying the groundwork for the rest of the state to follow,” Harwell said Thursday morning. “I am proud we could come together and we were able to get the additional funding.”
Rep. Gary Hicks, who carried the appropriation bill in the House of Representatives, thanked ETSU for “stepping up to the plate” to address the opioid epidemic and credited the university’s “high-impact treatment and prevention programs” in the arena with already saving lives.
“This $500,000 appropriation will ensure the excellent work being performed at ETSU will continue as we try to eradicate the opioid epidemic,” said Hicks, an ETSU alumnus.
“There’s no silver bullet to stop this issue. It will continue to take a multi-faceted approach.”
Dr. Rob Pack, executive director of the center, agreed that a multi-faceted approach is needed, noting that the goal of the center is to expand the use of evidence-based tools and involve all aspects of the community in the effort.
“At the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, our intention is to serve as a central clearinghouse for high-impact programs, helping to align and accelerate the great work many institutions are already doing and then leveraging those activities for even greater impact,” Pack said. “Our vision is a Central Appalachia that is free of the burden of illicit drug abuse. It is going to take a while, but this is personal for all of us and we are doing our level best to fight this epidemic.”
The ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment was established in the spring of 2016. It is an outgrowth of the ETSU Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse Working Group, a network of community and university stakeholders established by the university in 2012 to address the growing epidemic.
Last month, the center was awarded the 2018 Public Health Excellence award from the United States Public Health Service. The award recognizes ETSU’s strong community focus on the prevention and treatment of substance abuse throughout East Tennessee and the region.
In addition to Harwell and the House task force, several others have visited ETSU to hear more about its efforts to combat opioid abuse, including U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at the time of his visit.