My Time at MDC: Shelby Locke

This blog was written by Shelby Locke, MDC’s Media Relations InternIMG_8521

I cannot believe that my internship with MDC has come to an end. After 12 short weeks, I am able to say that I have grown so much as a public relations professional and as a person with this wonderful group of people. I have gained more valuable experience in my time here than I would have ever imagined.

Upon starting my internship in May, I learned quickly that I was going to be treated and valued as part of the team. At first this was intimidating because I have never been allowed to work so independently, but in the end, it grew my work ethic and skills. During my time at MDC, I wrote blog posts and social media, helped with events and worked on many creative and promotional materials. During my last week, I had the opportunity to do an interview with Whitney Kent from Mom’s Everyday on a story I pitched about children and accidental drug overdoses. This project definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but once I was in the studio I became comfortable and confident in my abilities.

One of my favorite parts about this internship was getting to host the U.S. Surgeon General. I have seen events take place with important political personalities before, but I have never been able to work behind the scenes. Getting to sit up front, live tweet the event and meet the Surgeon General was an experience that I may have never be able to do if it weren’t for MDC!

In addition to developing better skills in public relations, I have learned so much about the scope of the drug epidemic in the U.S., and, more specifically, East Tennessee. Going into my next internship, which is another non-profit focused on behavioral health, I feel so much more confident because all of the things I have learned at MDC. More than anything, I am so appreciative of the relationships I have formed with everyone here. I am truly blessed to have worked with such a loving and hard-working group of people.


Making the Right Call for Student Athletes

Michael Phelps, Johnny Manziel and Lamar Odum are a few of the athletes in professional sports whose careers and lives were tainted by the grips of substance abuse. Many people might think it was the fame, glory or pressure of the game that led these athletes to abuse drugs; however, the prescription drug epidemic is affecting more than just the elite population. The nation’s youth is heavily affected by substance abuse. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids states that there are nearly 2 million adolescents in need of help with a drug problem. According to a survey of students, young athletes are even more likely to abuse drugs.

Of all substances, prescription painkillers were among the most highly abused drugs by student athletes. Many addictions begin unintentionally and stem from medications prescribed for sport-related injuries. The stressors of high school sports have intensified over the years, and many athletes feel pressured to bounce back quickly from an injury. Because of this, some teens will abuse their prescriptions to mask the pain and get back in the game.

Parents should be involved in the academic and athletic lives of their children. It is imperative that parents remain active in the recovery in any injury their teen may encounter, especially sports. Monitoring medication intake and attending doctor’s visits with teens are some of the ways to combat substance abuse early on.

For more information about the warning signs of drug abuse among teens, visit

Meet Them Where They Are

When parents ask both professionals and friends about what to do about their child who is struggling with addiction they often get the answer, “they have to hit rock bottom.” This means that you cut them off and wait until they see that their life has gotten so bad that the only way out is to ask for help. The idea of hitting rock bottom makes sense if the person you are dealing with has the ability to recognize where bottom is for them.

According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, though the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self-control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs. This means that for many, the brain has changed in such a way that making decisions about what is rock bottom might be impossible. Unfortunately many families, including ours, have learned the hard way that rock bottom for many not be living on the streets or catching diseases, but instead may be death.

Addiction has long been considered a personal choice and a moral failing. It was believed that a person can simply decide to stop using just as we can decide to stop any other bad habit. When my nephew died from his addiction and we shared about it publicly, many people said that his parents had simply failed to raise him right. They said that he made the choice to die.  Fortunately the science of addiction has advanced considerably in the last six years since then. As defined by the NIDA, “addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self-control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs.”

So why do we insist on the all or nothing treatment mentality? Why don’t we have that attitude with other treatable diseases with both genetic and behavioral traits? Why don’t we wait for those suffering with other chronic, treatable diseases to hit rock bottom? The answer is stigma. There is a stigma of shame and embarrassment attached to addiction. Many believe that people who become addicted deserve to wallow in their shame until they pull themselves up by their bootstraps and do the right thing. Many believe that we are better off letting people who are addicted die because they have no value in our society.

Fortunately, the stigma is beginning to fade as more families speak out about their losses to overdose; as more people speak out about their struggle with addiction; as more research is done; as more people openly celebrate their ongoing recovery, however they found it; as fewer parents say “not my kid” and accept that prevention is crucial; as we recognize that every human life deserves dignity and is worth saving.  We have to forget rock bottom, meet them where they are, and guide them, without judgement, back to the surface and the light of hope.

This article was written by Betsy Tant with Henry’s Fund.

Selling your house? Protect your prescription drugs.

If you are selling your home, you are probably planning an open house with your realtor. Many people take precautions when strangers enter their homes by locking up their jewelry and other expensive items, but what about your prescription drugs? People in addiction and dealers commonly target open houses in order to steal prescription drugs.


As the prescription drug epidemic continues to grow, drug dealers and people in active addiction are looking for more easily accessible resources to obtain drugs. Some of these drugs can exceed $50 per pill on the streets, so obtaining drugs for free can create a large profit for dealers. It’s important to talk to your realtor and discuss a plan to safeguard your home during public or private showings. Here are some tips for avoiding drug theft in your home:

  • Store your prescription drugs in a safe or other secure location. Bathroom drawers, medicine cabinets and bedside tables are places that drug thieves will often look first.
  • Pay attention to those in your home. Realtors can provide a sign-in sheet to collect contact information.
  • Never show your home alone. Show your home with two or more people to keep you and your guests safe.
  • Communicate with your realtor anytime anyone enters your home for a showing.
  • Contact the police immediately to report a theft from your home.


In addition to these tips, MDC advises any homeowner to properly dispose of expired or unused drugs properly. Doing so can prevent these thefts from occurring. Medication take back events in the area are frequently posted on our website, and a 24/7, permanent dropbox is located in the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building (800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave.).

Don’t Let Your Teen Waste Away This Summer

You have probably already heard your teen complain of boredom as the summer drags on. With so much free time on their hands, teens become likely to experiment with new friends and activities. It should come to no surprise that teens tend to use alcohol and other drugs more during the summer with more free time; however, there are some statistics about teen substance abuse in the summer that may surprise you.

  • During an average day in June or July, more than 5,000 teens smoke cigarettes for the first time, over 11,000 teens try alcohol and another 4,500 tried smoking marijuana (US News).

It is important to ensure you are having active conversations with your teen about drug and alcohol use. Your teen is probably more aware about alcohol and drugs than you think. Overall, 90 percent of Americans with substance abuse problems started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18 (Above the Influence). As parents, you should build relationships with your children on trust, but you also must be sure you have created preventative measures so that substances cannot be abused in your home. Lock up alcohol and medicine cabinets, and keep count of all prescriptions and alcohol in your home.

Make sure your child is involved in activities this summer. Children are at a higher risk of experimenting with drugs and alcohol if they are at home alone all day. Whenever your child is unsupervised, check in occasionally to confirm their whereabouts and activities.

Lastly, be aware of what you are doing in front of your teens. The legal drinking age is 21 because the brains on teenagers are not developed enough to make rational decisions. Children will mimic what their parents are doing, so be a positive role model to your children.

For more information about teens and substance abuse, go to or visit our website at


Fetal Assault Law Sunsets on Friday, July 1

In early 2014, the Fetal Assault Law was enacted despite heavy opposition from the medical field. Under the law, women who gave birth to a baby that was harmed or born dependent on drugs due to the illegal use of narcotics could be charged with aggravated assault. These charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years. On July 1, 2016, we are pleased to announce that it will finally sunset, and women can no longer be charged.

This law was not as effective in treating this issue as lawmakers originally thought. One issue was that it failed to assist opioid addicted pregnant women in finding treatment. These facilities are hard to find because of the increased liability in treating a health issue with little research as well as lack of beds available. Additionally, this law discouraged many women from obtaining the prenatal care that they desperately needed, and encouraged some to do things such as, deliver babies at home or in other states, possible abortions and more just to avoid jail time.

Under this law, an estimated 100 women were arrested. In the documentary, Reaching Recovery, the issues of this law are discussed. Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin explains in the film how he sees these women that are too scared to seek treatment.

“I am really tired of taking little babies away from their mothers, and destroying that bond that can never be recreated,” Judge Irwin says.

The film discusses how overall, it is difficult to find facilities that will take these women due to a shortage of space and lack of insurance.

Lawmakers attempted to extend the law past the sunset date; however, there were not enough votes for it to pass. Most importantly, we want to emphasize to the community that women cannot be charged after July 1. Women who are using drugs during pregnancy should be actively seeking prenatal care and treatment immediately, and they can now do so without the fear of being arrested.

For more information about NAS and the dangers of using drugs during pregnancy, visit  If you are looking for help, call the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789.

MDC Invites the Community to Get Involved This Week

 Mark your calendars! MDC has several events this week open to the community:

On Tuesday, June 21, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy will be coming to Knoxville to speak with community leaders and visit Behavioral Health Group to discuss the opioid epidemic. This event is a part of a tour that Dr. Murthy has been doing in various cities across the country. On Tuesday, June 21 from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. there will be a Community Town Hall at the Knox County Health Department – 140 Dameron Ave. Dr. Murthy will be discussing the opioid epidemic as well as various other health topics facing our nation. A portion of the Town Hall will be allotted for questions from the audience. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., so come early to reserve your seat!

MDC will be hosting our first faith-based luncheon on Thursday, June 23 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the South Knoxville Community Center. Church leaders from the South Knoxville region will become educated about MDC, the work that we are doing in the community and the scope of the substance abuse epidemic in East Tennessee. In addition, church leaders will be able to collaborate with each other about what they have done and what they can continue to do with their congregations moving forward. Next quarter, we will be hosting a faith-based luncheon for East Knoxville church leaders. For questions or more information, contact Aly Taylor at gro.g1472253634urdor1472253634tem@r1472253634olyat1472253634a1472253634.

If you missed out on our last medication collection event, there will be another event this Saturday, June 25 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Food City in Fountain City – 4805 North Broadway. Bring any old, unused or expired medications you may have in your home to the event. MDC continues to reiterate the importance of proper disposal of your drugs for the safety of those in your home and those entering your home. If you cannot make this medication collection event, there is a permanent drop box located just inside the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building – 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave. This location is open 24/7.

MDC is excited to be hosting these events and continuing to share our mission with the community. We hope to see everyone at our events this week!

MDC Invites Local Church Leadership to Faith-Based Lunch & Learn

MDC’s Drug-Free Community Coalition will be hosting a Faith-Based Lunch & Learn to engage the South Knoxville community with MDC’s mission and efforts. The coalition has noticed that many churches in the community are making steps towards prevention and recovery; however, there are others who might not have the resources to do so. This event will be a great opportunity for South Knoxville church leaders to engage with other churches and MDC.

During the event, Karen Pershing, MDC Executive Director, will introduce our organization and what we do. Attendees will also be educated about the substance abuse epidemic we are facing in Knox County. Specifically, church leaders will learn about the science of addiction. Many people consider addiction as a moral failure and not a disease. It is important for churches and other faith based organizations to help our community realize the truth about individuals affected by addiction.

Following Pershing, our Youth Initiatives Director will be talking about how substance abuse has affected young people as well as some of the trends she has seen in our local schools. A representative from Knoxville Police Department will then touch on what they have seen with crime and substance abuse in the community. Lastly, one of the coalition leaders will lead the group in a discussion where they may collaborate as a community and have an opportunity to discuss what they are currently doing with their congregation.

Overall, the goal for this event is to give churches more resources and tools to help their congregations. This event will be held for the South Knoxville community at the South Knoxville Community Center – 522 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN 37920 on Thursday, June 23 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. There will be another training in East Knoxville during our next quarter.

Please RSVP by Thursday, June 16 to Aly Taylor at (865) 588-5550, or email *protected email*.

Mac’s Pharmacy to Host RX Take-Back Event

Mac’s Pharmacy will be hosting a community appreciation event on June 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In conjunction with their event, Mac’s Pharmacy will be hosting a drug take-back in conjunction with Metro Drug Coalition and the local police department so that individuals may dispose of their unused, old or expired medications.

MDC emphasizes the importance of proper drug disposal due to the rising epidemic of prescription drug abuse in America. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 52 millions Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs in their lifetime, and 54 percent of users obtain them from friends and family. Often times, we are not even aware of the prescription drugs in our cabinets from past surgeries or illnesses, but these drugs can cause unwarranted injury and sickness among children and other individuals in your home.

If you are unable to attend the take-back event, you can drop your unwanted, unused drugs off at the Knoxville Police Department’s Safety Building permanent drop box location. The Safety Building is located at 800 Howard Baker Jr. Avenue and is open 24/7.

Mac’s Pharmacy take-back event will include free food from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Additionally, there will be music, face painting, local business giveaways and more. At the end of the festivities, there will be a giveaway of 4 UT vs. Appalachian State football game tickets. The drug take-back will only be held at the Washington Pike location.

For more information, visit the event on Facebook

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Summer Safety: Think Before You Drink



The first day of summer is officially June 20, but summer fun and sunny weather are already in full swing. With so many fun holidays and outdoor activities in the summertime, alcohol consumption is heavily increased. MDC wants you to make safety a priority and think before you drink.

As alcohol decreases judgment and increases risk-taking, an array of mishaps and injuries can occur during summer activities. In fact, up to 70 percent of water recreation deaths involve the use of alcohol. Swimming while inebriated can influence individuals to swim too far, dive too shallow, or preform riskier stunts than they may have otherwise.

Boaters should also be aware of the consequences of alcohol consumption. Alcohol influences 60 percent of boating fatalities, so if you are drinking, designate a boat driver that is not. However, even passengers should be aware of the consequences of drinking. Overall, drinking and boating can lead to a variety of injuries from slips to drowning.

During the summer months, parents should pay special attention to the activities of their teens. By the end of summer, 940,400 teens will have tried their first drink of alcohol according to Bradford Health. In addition to alcohol, many teens will experiment with drugs during the summer months with more free time and less responsibilities. Always ask your teen about their whereabouts, who they are with and why they are where they are. Additionally, keep honest conversations about alcohol and drugs ongoing with your children.

Overall, we encourage you to avoid drinks that may inhibit your abilities during activities like boating, swimming and driving. Whether you are drinking or not, stay hydrated during these hot summer days. Following these tips can ensure a safe and fun summer.

Want more information about summer alcohol safety? Visit