MDC Welcomes New Intern

IMG_4851 (1)Metro Drug Coalition is pleased to introduce our summer media relations intern, Shelby Locke. Shelby will be a senior at the University of Tennessee pursuing a degree in public relations this upcoming fall. In addition to her internship with us, Shelby is spending her summer as a Style Guru with College Fashionista, writing for her personal fashion and lifestyle blog (check it out here!) and preparing for PRSSA as the newly elected public relations coordinator. Outside of her academic and professional career, Shelby enjoys spending time with her family in Nashville and enjoying the Tennessee summer heat. On her days off, you will probably find Shelby by the pool reading the latest thriller novel.

Shelby has recently interned for a Nashville mayoral campaign and Farragut Town Hall. Her experiences have developed her passion with working with local governments and their communities through different communication outlets. Within her different roles, Shelby has gained valuable experience in writing and social media management.

While working with MDC, Shelby hopes to gain more experience in communications while advocating for community awareness of drug abuse. While furthering her experience in writing and social media, she also hopes to grow her skills in media relations. Overall, Shelby would like to gain a better understanding for the drug addiction epidemic in East Tennessee.

Welcome to the team Shelby! We look forward to working with you this summer.

Intern Shares Her Experience with MDC

This blog was written by MDC’s intern, Addison Edwards, about her experience at MDC.

12973491_10153351678340388_7143630667217049662_oGoing into my internship with Metro Drug Coalition in January, I had no idea what the next four months had in store for me. My internship with MDC has been a challenging, yet motivating part of my collegiate career and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have served as the public relations intern for MDC during my last four months of college. I learned more in four months with MDC than I ever did in the classroom.

Internships serve as a hybrid for students who are in-between the classroom and entering into the world of work. They bring to light what a student learns in the classroom and then give students wings to fly with those skills. My internship was no different. I was able to apply the skills that I learned throughout my public relations coursework at the University of Tennessee, and use them doing public relations “real-world” work.

One of the things that challenged me most during my internship was my required media pitching assignment. I was required to pitch a story to the media and then do a filmed take for TV. This assignment forced me out of my comfort zone, which was something that I needed, and now I feel more confident when given a task that might intimidate me at first.

Working at MDC not only challenged me to reach out of my comfort zone, it also aided me in getting further involved with my community. This is something that I wanted going into my internship, but found that it was harder than I thought to make the first step to get involved in my community. Networking with individuals that had the same vision as MDC was a privilege and I will be able to keep these contacts as I continue my work in Knoxville.

Thanks to the MDC staff, I was able to grow from my internship on a personal and professional level. Being able to learn strategic public relations tactics while reaching outside of my comfort zone will help me tremendously wherever I go next.

National Mental Health Awareness Month

As May begins, so does Mental Health Month. Mental Health Month is designed to bring awareness to a subject that oftentimes gets overlooked. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 15-24. This shows the detrimental affect that mental illness can have on individuals and families, youth especially.

According to Mental Health America, 1 in 5 adults live with a mental health condition every year while 1 in 20 live with a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Both of these statistics express the dire need to further awareness for mental illness.

Mental illnesses can lead to drug abuse. Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports that there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” and that mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 38 percent of alcohol
  • 44 percent of cocaine
  • 40 percent of cigarettes

There’s clearly a connection between substance abuse and mental health disorders, and any number of combinations can develop, each with its own set of unique causes and symptoms, as well as its own appropriate intervention and Dual Diagnosis treatment methods.

Mental illness is a combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle. Because of this, it may be hard sometimes to decipher mental illness from hectic, everyday life. Some common warning signs to look for are:

  1. Avoiding friends and social activity
  2. Prolonged feelings of irritability or anger
  3. Abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol
  4. Difficulty relating to others
  5. Extreme changes in sleeping patterns

While these are not the only symptoms of mental illness, they offer a solid start when trying to address the possibility of mental illness.

For more information on Mental Health Month, additional symptoms, where to get help and more, visit



Last Chance to Purchase Tickets

The deadline for ticket sales for MDC’s 30th Anniversary Dinner has been extended till tonight at 10 p.m.

Substance abuse has been a widespread issue throughout our country, but also right here in our community. Tennessee ranks in the top ten states for prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths. This is an issue that MDC works every day to prevent.

The dinner will take place on May 5 at the Jackson Terminal from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. and Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, will serve as the keynote speaker for the night.

Dreamland recounts twin stories of drug marketing in the 21st Century: A pharmaceutical corporation flogs its legal new opiate prescription painkiller as nonaddictive. Meanwhile, immigrants from a small town in Nayarit, Mexico devise a method for retailing black-tar heroin like pizza in the US, and take that system nationwide, riding a wave of addiction to prescription pills from coast to coast. The collision of those two forces has led to America’s deadliest drug scourge in modern times.

Dreamland was selected as one of the Best books of 2015 by,, the Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Entertainment Weekly, Audible, and in the Wall Street Jour-nal and Bloomberg Business by Nobel economics laureate, Prof. Angus Deaton, of Princeton University.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear Sam Quinones speak on behalf of his amazing book and have the opportunity to talk to him personally about this epidemic that affects almost every American.

Tickets will be available to purchase until 10 pm TONIGHT. To purchase your tickets, please visit

Thank you for your continued support of Metro Drug Coalition!

RX Drug Take-Back Event: Saturday, April 23

On Saturday, April 23, Metro Drug Coalition, the City of Knoxville Police Department, Knox County, City of Knoxville Solid Waste Offices Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, UT Academy of Student Pharmacists and the Knox County Health Department are partnering together to sponsor household only prescription pill collection in our community. This purpose of this event is to gather people throughout the Knoxville community to properly dispose of medication. In doing this, the partners hosting the event hope to prevent these medications from getting into the water or into the hands of children.

Thousands of pills are thrown away, flushed down the toilet or poured into drains every day. This can actually get into the water systems and affect people that drink it. Medication disposal programs help educate families and individuals of this danger and provide a safe, healthy way to dispose of unwanted or unneeded medications whether it is prescriptions or over-the-counter medications.

In addition to the hopes of educating the public on how to properly dispose of unneeded or unwanted medications, the partners for this event are hoping that events such as this will bring the community together in contributing to the drug abuse epidemic that is so prevalent throughout Knox County.

This event will take place on Saturday, April 23, 2016 in the West Town Mall parking lot on the corner of Kingston Pike and Morrell Road from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The following medications will be accepted:

  1. Unwanted or expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
  2. Veterinarian prescribed pet medications
  3. Unused sharp medicines such as epinephrine allergy injections and insulin
  4. Unused pricking devices for monitors (as long as they are still in the packaging and never have been used)****Used needles and other sharps should be disposed by placing the sharps/needles in a sealed plastic container (like an empty bleach bottle) and putting that in with your household waste.

For more information on Saturday’s event, please visit

If you are not able to come to the event, please drop your medications at the Knoxville Police Department’s Safety Building, located at: 800 Howard Baker Jr. Avenue. Knoxville, TN 37915



Prom Night: Make Memories, Not Regrets

Parents, prom season is here! With your teens having one of their most memorable nights of high school, the idea might have crossed your mind to host a party where underage drinking will be present. Some parents think this will keep teens “safe” with it being in the confinements of your own home and supervision. This is this illegal, unsafe and can harbor serious consequences for you and teens partaking in underage drinking.

Providing alcohol to minors is a class A misdemeanor that can result in job losses, tarnished reputations, community service, fines and lawsuits. In Tennessee, parents can spend up to 11 months and 29 days in jail for serving alcohol to a minor. Hosting a party for teens where underage drinking is present is classified as Social Host Liability. If parents are convicted of this, they can be held fully responsible for the legal consequences of providing alcohol to a minor(s). Throughout every state within the United States, the minimum drinking age is 21 and this should be respected and honored when serving alcohol in ANY situation.

Being the life of the party can come at a high cost to teens when engaging in underage drinking. In addition to community service and fines, students can also serve jail time for drinking underage.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol results in deaths of 4,358 young people under the age of 21, on average, every year.

Here are some steps to take at home when talking to your teen:

  • Set a good example– Drink responsibly – NEVER drink and drive.
  • Talk WITH your kids– Talk early, talk often. Know where they are going, who they are going with, where they will be and when they will be home. Check in on occasion just to make sure.
  • Remove temptation– Limit and monitor the cans and bottles in your refrigerator and lock your liquor cabinet.
  • Know the warning signs for underage drinking, and if you have concerns get help.
  • Talk to your kids’ friends and their parents. Let them know your rules and that you expect your child to follow them no matter where they are. Let the parents know that you do not want your son/daughter drinking alcohol.
  • Finally, if you can, get involved in your community’s efforts to address underage drinking.

For more information regarding underage drinking, please visit

MDC Recognizes National Public Health Week



Every year, during the first full week of April, the American Public Health Association observes National Public Health Week throughout our country. This year, National Public Health Week is April 4-10. For over 20 years, the American Public Health Association has promoted National Public Health Week and each year a campaign paired with many events are hosted across the United States in the hopes of bettering our country’s health by 2030.

This year’s NPHW kicks off with an array of different topics, including:

  • Monday: NPHW Forum
  • Tuesday: Public Health’s Legal Authority and Safe Drinking Water
  • Wednesday: NPHW Twitter Chat
  • Friday: Healthiest Nation Town Hall with U.S. Surgeon General and Students

All of these events are aimed at educating and eventually leading to a better understanding of what it looks like to be a healthy nation.

There are several ways that you can get involved in National Public Health Week by doing the following:

  1. Sign the pledge to create the healthiest nation at
  2. Become a NPHW partner by signing up at
  3. Download this year’s materials and themes throughout the week at
  4. Attend and promote APHA events.

The American Public Health Association prides itself in promoting good health of all people and communities throughout the United States. In addition to this, the American Public Health Association also strengthens the profession of public health and also influences public policy to improve global health.

For more information on National Public Health Week or the American Public Health Association, visit

Who will cry for the little boy?

Who will cry for the little boy?
Lost and all alone.
Who will cry for the little boy?
Abandoned without his own?

Who will cry for the little boy?
He cried himself to sleep.
Who will cry for the little boy?
He never had for keeps.

Who will cry for the little boy?
He walked the burning sand.
Who will cry for the little boy?
The boy inside the man.

Who will cry for the little boy?
Who knows well hurt and pain.
Who will cry for the little boy?
He died again and again.

Who will cry for the little boy?
A good boy he tried to be.
Who will cry for the little boy?
Who cries inside of me.

- Antwone Fisher

The spring time is full of transformations and we often think of spring time as nicer weather, prettier flowers and springing forward with time. During this time, how often do we forget about those that are suffering from dependency of psychoactive substances?

Most people see “addicts” as those who have just made a choice to use drugs. However, many addicts feel alone and are experiencing deeply entrenched unresolved pain, which leads to the perpetual cycle of continual drug use. Spring time effects the addict on a deeper level; being that internally their spirits are not in a state of beauty, freshness, vigor or development. Instead it’s in a state of brokenness, fear, confusion, shame and hurt.

Rather than asking ourselves, “why do they keep using drugs?” we should ask ourselves “what made them start using drugs?” When we ask ourselves this question, we may find that there is more to using drugs than just the use and we may experience a deeper level of empathy, compassion, concern and understanding towards the addict.

“You cannot change the fruit until you change the root!”

-Reico Hopewell; Director of The Mend House Sober Transitional Living for Men


MDC To Host 30th Annual Anniversary Dinner

30th Dinner Invitation-page-001On May 5, 2016, Metro Drug Coalition will hold its 30th Anniversary Dinner at the Jackson Terminal. MDC is pleased to announce that Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, will serve as the keynote speaker for the night.

The anniversary dinner has six different sponsorships available. These partnerships include: Presenting Sponsor Level ($10,000), Platinum Sponsor Level ($5,000), Gold Sponsor Level ($3,000), Silver Sponsor Level (1,000), Bronze Sponsor Level ($500) and the Media or In-kind Sponsors (Auction Items, Printing Services and/or Audiovisual).

Metro Drug Coalition was originally established as the Metropolitan Drug Commission on its founding date of April 18, 1986. The non-profit organization was founded by a joint resolution of the City of Knoxville and Knox County. Its current name, Metro Drug Coalition, was changed after a recent rebranding of the name and logo within the organization. MDC’s 30-year history has been very successful in educating, advocating and reducing the stigma and impact of substance abuse for Knoxville, Knox County and the state of Tennessee.

Substance abuse is prevalent throughout the country, but particularly strong in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee ranks seventh in the nation for prescription drug overdoses and eighth in the nation for overdose deaths. In 2014 alone, 1,263 Tennesseans died from opioid overdoses. In 2015, 986 babies were born dependent on drugs due to mothers using opioids during pregnancy.

MDC’s mission is to improve the health of the greater Knoxville community by reducing the use of alcohol and drugs through policy, systems and environment change. MDC values leadership, integrity and community in its efforts to reduce the use of these substances.

For more information about how to be a sponsor for MDC’s 30th Anniversary Dinner or more about MDC, please visit here.

If you are interested in sponsorship, please contact Karen Pershing at *protected email*.

NAS Documentary to Premiere this Thursday

Last March, University of Tennessee of Journalism and Electronic Media students partnered with Metro Drug Coalition to create a documentary revolving around Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Last year alone, nearly 1,000 babies in Tennessee were born with NAS. Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy & Addiction in East Tennessee examines the terrible phenomenon plaguing our state. Through interviews with medical experts, addiction specialists, policy makers, and, most importantly, the mothers whom have struggled with these issues, this half-hour film presents a comprehensive view of the problem and documents the struggles addicted mothers face in reaching recovery.

After almost a year of tireless efforts, the documentary will come to life as it is screened live for the general public this week at the Knox County Health Department on Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 PM. Following the live screening, there will be a panel discussion held at 7:30 PM. For those who cannot make the event, WBIR Channel 10, will be live streaming the event and panel discussion on and live on WBIR-Channel 10 beginning at 7 PM.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, commonly referred to as NAS, occurs when a woman takes an opiate or a narcotic drug while pregnant, the substances pass through the placenta and results in drug dependency for the baby. NAS has grown substantially over the last 12 years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2000-2012, an estimated 21,732 infants were affected by NAS. Based on this statistic, every 25 minutes, a baby is born dependent on drugs. NIDA also showed that newborns stayed on average 16.9 days in the hospital. This is a dramatic increase in comparison to the 2.1 average stay of a healthy newborn.

In addition to the rising statistics of NAS, lengthy hospital stays and the emotional toll for families affected, NAS also takes a toll financially on hospitals and families. The average cost for a newborn’s stay with NAS is $66,700. This is extremely high compared to the lesser cost of $3,500 for babies without NAS.

Although NAS is on the rise and reaching epidemic proportions, it is 100% preventable. If you, someone you know is pregnant, please visit to find out information on the dangers and how to prevent NAS.

Check out the sneak peak of Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy & Addiction in East Tennessee.


“Reaching Recovery” was produced by Land Grant Films at The University of Tennessee in collaboration with Metro Drug Coalition. Directed by journalism professor Nick Geidner, edited by journalism graduate student Clinton Elmore, and produced by undergraduate students Abby Bower and Hannah Marley and recent UT alum Nichole Stevens.