New Law Causes Confusion

Karen PershingAre you confused about Tennessee’s new law regarding pregnancy and substance use?  You are not alone!  On July 1, 2014, a new law went into effect stating that a woman who gives birth to a baby, who is harmed by her illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, can result in assaultive offense charges.  If a pregnant woman enters into a treatment program and gets prenatal care, these positive actions can be used as an affirmative defense.

Sounds pretty simple, right?  If you have a legal background, maybe!  First of all, in the State of Tennessee, a baby is not considered a baby until the day of the birth; therefore, women who are pregnant and using drugs cannot be charged with a crime.  Once the baby is born and the baby has symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or other harm as a result of the Mother’s drug use, the mother could be charged with misdemeanor assault.

In recent conversations with service providers, I was informed that both service providers as well as pregnant women with addiction issues are confused and think that if they are not “clean” at the time they access prenatal care that they will be arrested.  This is NOT true and should be corrected as soon as possible.  Medical professionals who are providing care are NOT required to report the drug use of a pregnant woman.  Again, that baby is not defined as a baby until the day the child is born.

Once the baby is born and the hospital confirms drug use of the mother and that harm to the baby has occurred as a result, the birthing facility is required to file a report with the Department of Children’s Services, who then opens a case and notifies local law enforcement.  If the birth mother can document that she is actively engaged in a treatment program AND received prenatal care, charges will NOT be filed.  If she cannot produce verification that she is in a treatment program, misdemeanor charges will then be filed and the Mother arrested.

It is critical for both the health of the mother and the baby to receive prenatal care as early in the pregnancy as possible.  For a woman struggling with the disease of addiction, this is even more paramount.  There have already been some women who have reported buying Methadone off the street and trying to detoxify themselves prior to seeking medical care.  This can be very dangerous for both the mother and the baby.  Detoxification of pregnant women should be medically managed and the tapering process should be gradual.

It is up to all of us to spread the word and make sure we are not making an already difficult situation worse for fear of criminal charges.  This law was put in place to encourage women to access treatment for their addiction and deliver the healthiest baby possible.

Note:  This law has a sunset provision and will expire on June 30, 2016.

Youth Programs Coordinator Position

Metropolitan Drug Commission

Job Description

Youth Programs Coordinator

As a part-time staff member of Metropolitan Drug Commission (MDC), the coordinator is expected to become familiar with the MDC’s programs and services and remain committed to the MDC’s mission of reducing youth substance abuse in our community. Due to the nature of this particular position, the Youth Programs Coordinator must be a positive role model to the students he/she is working with.

Richard Yoakley School is an alternative school for Knox County students who have violated school policy and need special intervention.  MDC partners with Richard Yoakley by providing support for the Accelerated Reader program and providing instruction during social skills hours.  This program requires coordination between school personnel, MDC coalition volunteers as well as the students.

Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) is a student-led, but adult guided program, which can be implemented in both middle and high schools.  MDC does not currently have these clubs established, but would like to begin establishing.

The Youth Programs Coordinator reports directly to the Executive Director and will average 15-20 hours of work time per week.

Primary Duties:

  • Support youth led projects to help students succeed at their established goals for the year
  • Establish and maintain partnerships connecting youth with community resources needed to accomplish their goals and objectives
  • Work with the Executive Director to ensure that grant requirements are met
  • Recruit adult SADD coordinators
  • Coordinate training and retreat opportunities for the SADD advisors and student members
  • Establish working relationships with Richard Yoakley school personnel and coalition volunteers
  • Assist school personnel in implementing the Accelerated Reader Program
  • Develop mechanism to gather student outcomes for grant reporting purposes
  • Coordinate MDC coalition volunteers to assist with both Accelerated Reader and the Social Skills hours at Richard Yoakley
  • Prepare United Way grant reports for the Accelerated Reader program
  • Recruit adult SADD coordinators
  • Coordinate training and retreat opportunities for the SADD advisors and/or student members
  • Identify opportunities to start SADD chapters in schools
  • Provide guidance to student groups interested in SADD
  • Work with school coordinator on SADD chapter activities
  • Provide on-going, indirect support for SADD chapters in Knox County
  • Provide community presentations on substance use/abuse
  • Represent MDC at other youth events where MDC has involvement

Other duties as assigned by the Executive Director.


The MDC Youth Programs Coordinator will be paid at an hourly rate determined by education and experience.  A timesheet detailing hours worked will be required in order to receive a paycheck.

Mileage will be reimbursed at the state rate and on a monthly basis for local travel related to business. All mileage should be documented on the form provided and submitted to the supervisor at the end of each month.

All expenditures must be documented with original receipts and the expense form provided. This includes reimbursement expenses and expenditures made using company credit. Reimbursements are made once a month; however, expenses/receipts should be individually documented in most instances.

Minimum Qualifications:  Bachelor’s degree (or currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree) in health education, social work, psychology, child and family studies or related field.  Experience working with youth.  Must possess a valid Tennessee Driver’s license and have reliable transportation with the ability to produce evidence of auto insurance coverage.

To apply, please send a resume, work and personal references and a writing sample to Karen Pershing at gro.g1406542702urdor1406542702tem@g1406542702nihsr1406542702epk1406542702.  No phone calls please.  Application deadline is:  Friday, August 8th.

The MDC is an equal opportunity employer and a drug-free workplace.  A background check will be required as a condition of employment.

Modern World Stress and Drinking

The following is a guest post by Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrate on self-directed positive and permanent change. Through the program, we offer the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement.



Stress. We all have in one form or another and we always will.  It’s just a part of life.  In the pioneer days, stress was much different than the stress we experience in the modern world.  For example, drought was a huge stress factor for the Jamestown colonists in the 1600’s.  It caused famine, poor water quality, hostility, disease, and even death.  While today, with all of our modern conveniences, we still have stress, albeit a different kind of stress. Some are stressed financially or maybe their job causes stress, and some people’s family lives causes them stress. Still, many of us will turn to alcohol to relieve stress.  But, does it? Do those who turn to alcohol to relieve stress actually accomplish the intended result?

More often than not, drinking to relieve stress doesn’t always have the desired outcome and is a very dangerous choice.  In fact, in many cases, the negative consequences associated with habitual or excessive drinking only adds to or amplifies the level of stress for people in these modern times.  People experience DUI, anger their family members, lose jobs and feel guilty when they turn to the bottle to relieve stress.  Certainly, there are strategies and other alternatives different than turning to alcohol that we can implement into our modern lives that can actually relieve stress.

  • Exercise:  Regular exercise helps us release tension and promotes an overall feeling of well being.  Exercise also releases endorphins which makes us feel happy and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.  There are so many options when it comes to exercising such as hiking, walking, running, jogging, weight training, group fitness classes, yoga, dancing, boxing or karate.  Next time our modern life’s little annoyances and frustrations start to build up, take your mind off of it for a while with some exercise.
  • Hobbies:  Every now and then, it’s a good idea to “check out” and distract yourself from the things in your environment that are stressing you out.  A hobby can be a great way to accomplish this.  Drawing, painting and gardening are some good examples of activities that can relax your mind and are enjoyable things to do.  Even cleaning or organizing can help you to change your thoughts for a while and gives you the sense that you’ve accomplished something as well.  If you make time on a regular base for your hobbies and interest you will feel more balanced and less stressed.
  • Pampering Yourself:  Our modern lives are oftentimes very busy and taking care of yourself on a regular bases helps to manage stress.  Sometimes a massage or pedicure is all you need to lift your spirits, feel rejuvenated and more emotionally stable.  Massage also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and boosts the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.  Massage alleviates pain and lessens anxiety and depression.  If your schedule does not allow you to take some time to get a massage, purchase a massage chair for your home.  This way, you can put on some calming, soothing music, sit back and relax.
  • Positive Attitude:  Stress is subjective.  What stresses one person out, does not stress another.  Much of what we perceive as being stressful is due to our own negative thought process.  Always focusing on the negatives causes fear and anxiety.  In every situation, there are positive aspects we can focus on.  Training our minds to focus on the positive helps to have a positive outlook and attitude, which in turn be a less stressful way to live.

So, the next time your modern life is causing you stress, take a deep breath and remember these strategies before you go to the bar, the liquor cabinet or open a bottle of wine.

Why not do something that will promote and enhance your happiness and relieve stress in a positive way?

For more information on Saint Jude Retreats, please visit their website at

How do you Boat Safe?

Summer, boats and alcohol.

For many, the activities seem to be interrelated. But for people who abuse alcohol on the water the consequences can be deadly.

Boating under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated and just as illegal. Operating a boat while impaired not only endangers the lives of you and your passengers, but also endangers every other user of the waterway around you.

It is unlawful to operate any sail or powered vessel while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs. Here are some important facts to consider.

In the state of Tennessee Conviction for operating under the influence will result in fines of up to $2,500 on the first offense, $2,500 on the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. A jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days may also be imposed for any conviction and operating privileges may be suspended from one to ten years. Additional federal penalties may also be assessed.

If you choose to drink and boat, make sure you have a designated captain. Make sure to require your passengers to wear life jackets be mindful the law.

Practice Safe Boating

Select Colleges to Sell Beer/Wine in Stadiums to Boost Revenue

Deb_HeadshotSome colleges will begin to sell beer and wine in their on-campus stadiums to boost revenue.

Right now, UT will NOT sell alcohol in Neyland Stadium.

West Virginia implemented beer sales at football games in 2011, generating upward of $500,000 in new revenue while seeing fewer incidents of rowdy fan behavior related to binge-drinking outside the stadium. Minnesota sold beer and wine at TCF Bank Stadium as part of a two-year pilot program beginning in 2012 and reported a $181,678 profit last season.

Although this may be boosting sales revenue for University athletic departments, it also is an issue for underage drinking.

At SMU, Southern Methodist University, if a 21-or-older student enters the venue, they get a wristband with three pull-tabs, and one is torn off for each beer they buy. Non-students are limited to one beverage per ID, per trip to the concession stand.

Even with limiting the drinks per band, students and adults that attend these games could potentially give the alcohol to minors. Universities will need to hire more security for each section to keep an eye on this problem.

To see more information on this topic, head over to WBIR  for the full story.wbir_logo

Regional Medication Collection Event!

Deb_HeadshotMDC will be having a Regional Medication Collection Event on Saturday, June 21 from 9:00 11:00 a.m.

Please stop by and bring any unused or expired medications! Check out the flyer below for more information. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call our office at 865-588-5550.

Full page flyer.indd

Bonnaroo: the ‘Not so Sober’ Music Festival


When peoDeb_Headshotple hear the name “Bonnaroo,” three things come to mind: hippies, music and drugs. Bonnaroo is an annual music festival held each June on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, TN. This festival attracts electric acts like Jay-Z, Radiohead, Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Elton John, The Allman Brothers, Bassnectar and The Black Keys. Music-lovers come from all over the world to hear these 100+ bands perform.

However, the underlying issue that is continually pushed under the rug is drug and alcohol abuse.



According to, it states that each vehicle will be searched and I quote, “we’ll find out just how carefully you’ve read about what’s allowed in and what’s not.” These items are listed and state that no glass container or illegal substances are allowed in.

So the question remains, why are some of the 100,000+ attendees abusing drugs at this festival?

On Bonnaroo’s website it lists warning signs of drug or alcohol overdose. It says, “If you or a friend are in trouble, please seek out medical help IMMEDIATELY. Medical and security are safe havens at Bonnaroo, and you will not get in trouble for anything you do or say. Their only concern is your well-being.”

There is even a part of this festival called, ‘Soberoo’. This is a group of clean & sober music fans who choose to remain drug and alcohol free at Bonnaroo and other music festivals. But shouldn’t the festival remain ‘Soberoo’ in the first place?

Last year, according to Nashville’s WSMV Channel 4 news, 2 California men heading to Bonnaroo were arrested on drug charges. Police recovered 10 grams of cocaine, 207.5 grams of marijuana, 49.3 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms, 5.5 Adderall pills without a prescription and 22 tramadol pain pills prescribed to one of the arrested men’s brothers. Bonds were set for the two men at $297,000 and $228,000.

So if you or any of your friends are making the trip to Machester for the music festival, make the smart decision and report any illegal drug activity or alcohol abuse you see.


Tobacco-Free Community Baby Shower


Tobacco smoking in pregnancy remains one of the few preventable factors associated with complications in pregnancy, low birth weight, preterm birth and has serious long-term health implications for women and babies. Smoking in pregnancy is decreasing in high-income countries and increasing in low- to middle-income countries and is strongly associated with poverty, low educational attainment, poor social support and psychological illness.

Knox County Health Department along with Smoke-Free Knoxville will be hosting an educational tobacco-free community baby shower to bring light onto this important topic. This shower will help kick off Knox County Health Department’s new Tobacco Settlement Grant and focus on smoking cessation during pregnancy. The first planning committee meeting will be June 28 at 1:00 p.m. If you would like to take part in planning this fun event please send an email to gro.y1406542702tnuoc1406542702xonk@1406542702dnulk1406542702rub.n1406542702yrhta1406542702k1406542702.


**Research from The Cochrane Library

Tennessee’s Brighter Future

kIn lieu of this week’s National Prevention Week, we at MDC would like to talk to you a little bit more about underage drinking and how to help prevent alcohol use among youth.

Did you know that in 2011, one third of youth drank at least one full serving of alcohol? Another startling statistic is that one fifth of youth drove in a car with someone who had consumed alcohol prior to getting in the car.

The key in stopping this reckless behavior is communication. If there is an open line of communication between the parents and the teen, they are less likely to engage in underage drinking. The video below harps on three things; be proactive, be persistent and be positive. What is really shocking is that 20 percent of youth had their first alcoholic beverage before the age of 13. Sticking to these three approaches will help to keep the line of communication open and prevent these damaging decisions.

Home should be a safe place to be open and honest with parents. If teens feel they can openly talk to their parents about the pressures they are going through without punishment, it will help to keep lying to a minimum. When parents attack and punish teens for talking about alcohol, it only makes them want to engage in these activities more. Making sure to say things like “I’m glad you were strong and did not drink” or “Thank you for being honest with me about what was going on at that party” will help to keep teens open.

Watch this video from SAMHSA’s state video project to learn more about keeping the lines of communication open. For more information on how to talk to your teen about this topic, visit

National Prevention Week: Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future.

Deborah Huddleston National Prevention Week is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.

Taking part in National Prevention Week means you have the opportunity to talk with your friends and family about the dangers of all types of substance abuse. This year’s focus is on the following topics:

  • Sunday, May 18: Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use
  • Monday, May 19: Prevention of Underage Drinking
  • Tuesday, May 20: Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and Marijuana Use
  • Wednesday, May 21: Prevention of Alcohol Abuse
  • Thursday, May 22: Prevention of Suicide
  • Friday, May 23: Promotion of Mental Health


I challenge you to make a difference in someone’s life, and your own, next week. Take the SAMHSA Prevention Pledge to give your commitment to healthy living and share any unique prevention stories you have with others. Share with your friends on social media and let us know you’ve pledged!

For more information on SAMHSA National Prevention Week, visit SAMHSA website.