Tennessee nonprofit, MTSU receive $1 million grant to expand opioid and substance abuse programs


FILE (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A nonprofit aimed to prevent and reduce drug misuse and addiction in Wilson County received $1,000,000 in funding from the Health Resources and Human Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

County Mayor Randall Hutto says DrugFree Wilco will now be partnered with The Center for Health & Human Services at Middle Tennessee State University. The grant funds will be used to expand opioid and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services in Wilson

DrugFree Wilco has more than 150 members and is an active partner with CHHS and MTSU. Members create focus groups in order to identify areas which need additional services to meet the needs of the community.

Group project manager Susan Shaw told News 2 their organization began when a mother in the community reached out to Mayor Hutto after her son died from an overdose.

“It’s a struggle when people get addicted to painkillers or opioids, any type of drug. It’s not easy to take yourself off of that you actually need some assistance. You need medical and emotional help as well. That’s how it got started,” Shaw said.

The group began as a coalition and later became certified as a nonprofit.

“We started a jail-based reentry program to hire a jail transition specialist. We are also working with the (district attorney) on that and all law enforcement in the community, as well as different treatment providers,” Shaw said.

Shaw says they will be able to improve education on prevention, help employers hire those in recovery and begin to map out areas where opioids seem to be most problematic in the county.

“Developing that overdose map is going to be a big initiative. Captain Scott Moore, who is our chairperson of FrugFree Wilco, will be spearheading that part of the initiative,” Shaw said.

Moore released the following statistics to News 2:

  • Wilson County Sheriff’s Office in 2020 had 56 overdoses, 12 received Narcan, 18 resulted in death.
  • Mt. Juliet PD in 2020 had five overdose deaths, 25 received Narcan.
  • Mt Juliet PD in 2021 had four overdose deaths, 17 received Narcan.
  • LPD in 2020 had 120 overdoses, 23 deaths.

“DrugFree WilCo’s partnership with MTSU Center for Health and Human Services will make a difference and help save lives in Wilson County,” Mayor Hutto said. “Their efforts are supported by the Sheriff’s Office, all law enforcement, and the many agencies working to help children and adults to lead productive lives without addiction.”

The coalition still meets via Zoom at 3:30-4:30 p.m. every fourth Wednesday.

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