<h1 class='title'>Staff</h1>


  • Karen Pershing, MPH, CPS II

    Executive Director

    Karen provides organizational oversight and helps guide MDC’s mission. A 30 plus year veteran of public health, she has devoted her career to improving the health of families in Knoxville. Karen works with local and state policymakers to advocate for laws that help prevent substance abuse and its consequences.

    Karen is passionate about prescription drug abuse prevention, specifically targeting Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and increasing access to treatment for pregnant women. In 2012, she was chosen as one of only four community leaders to serve on a statewide planning group to develop a five-year prevention plan for Tennessee. Karen is a graduate of Leadership Knoxville Class of 2013 and women’s Addiction Services Leadership Institute Class of 2013.

    The Knox County Prescription Drug Task Force that was formed under her leadership has been recognized as a model coalition by the Tennessee Department’s of Health and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

    She received her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies and a Master of Science in Public Health from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

  • Deborah Crouse, CPS I

    Media Relations & Project Director

    Deborah provides an array of communication and public relations services for Metro Drug Coalition, including: media relations, marketing, social media management, website content, event planning, writing and research. She oversees MDC’s state grant aimed at prescription drug prevention. Deborah works closely with local beer retailers, law enforcement, schools and local government to mobilize the community against adolescent and adult substance use.

    Deborah has a passion for helping other nonprofits learn how to strategically use media relations in their organization. She received her Bachelor of Science in Communication from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

  • Katie Linley

    Project Director

    Katie facilitates project planning, implementation and evaluation for the MDC’s community coalition. The coalition consists of a diverse range of members, including business and treatment professionals, law enforcement, educators and concerned citizens. She also manages MDC’s tobacco and alcohol prevention projects.

    Katie received her Bachelor of Science in Communication from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

  • Sarah Sandlin

    Youth Initiatives Director

    Sarah oversees youth prevention at MDC. She provides substance abuse prevention education to children and teens throughout Knox County, including the public and private school sectors. She also advises the Youth Metro Drug Coalition (YMDC). YMDC consists of teens who have a personal connection to addiction or a passion for substance abuse prevention. These teens serve as a “community roundtable” on drug and alcohol prevention who develop prevention strategies to implement in order to engage teens and reduce/prevent youth substance use.

    Sarah received her Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy from Clemson University.

  • Courtney Niemann, MS

    Project Director

    Courtney oversees the development and implementation of the Hands of Hope mentoring program, which matches mothers in recovery with new mothers in addiction treatment and/or recovery. She ensures mentoring program quality and performance related to recruiting, screening, matching, supporting, monitoring, and closing relationships with mentors. Courtney communicates with each mentor and mentee throughout the entire match process.

    Courtney holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Health Education and a Master’s of Science in Health Education/Health Promotion from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

  • Jason Goodman, CPRS

    Regional Lifeline Director

    Jason facilitates recovery efforts across the sixteen county area of Region 2. He educates those in recovery and the community with a specific goal in mind: reducing the stigma of substance abuse by establishing lifelines and support services for individuals in need. Jason has a passion for helping others find a path to recovery and gain the skills to sustain their journey. He has over two years in recovery and is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist.