The Lord Is My Shepherd

One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”

Continue Reading →

Brittany & Brett

It was love at first sight or at least it was love when they finally met! Brett Hawkins and Brittany Wheeler had lived less than a mile from each other for five years before meeting while working together briefly in the last few months of college. It may of taken time to actually be introduced, but they have made up for every minute of it since that moment. Officially becoming a couple on March 8, 2018 while visiting Asheville, NC, getting engaged on December 26, 2018 atop Anakeesta in Gatlinburg and married on March 9, 2019 in the bride’s hometown and place they first met, Johnson City.Brett followed the traditional rites of passage by asking his soon to be bride’s family blessing on the union. The engagement ring is perfected and centered by a diamond from the wedding ring of the bride’s grandmother. The wedding planning was seamless and fully designed by the bride, Brittany and her mother. A beautiful day with family and friends, each detail carefully aligned with their personalities, joining the families of Wes and Kim Wheeler with Tony and Elaine Hawkins. A day of love, union and beauty in an unmatched setting of elegance.Taking place at The Gallery, the gorgeous chandeliers and large fireplace are focal points of this exceptional venue, along with hardwood floors, exposed brick and windows overlooking downtown Johnson City with spectacular sunset views. Candles and rose pedals filled the space, a special touch of the couple for the enjoyment of all and captured in timeless photography by JOPHOTO. Followed by a fun-filled honeymoon to Disney World and Clearwater, Florida, the couple now resides in Knoxville. Congratulations Brett and Brittany.

Continue Reading →

Spring 2019 Festivals

Townsend Spring Festival & Old Timers Day
May 3-4
Each Spring and Fall Townsend celebrates its rich Appalachia history through music, crafts and foods. This free event includes two days of Bluegrass music, handmade crafts and food. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy all of the Spring Festivities for the entire family at the Townsend Visitor’s Center.
Parking is $10 per day or $15 for a two-day pass. Proceeds benefit the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department. Parking passes may be purchased at the Townsend Visitor Center (7906 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy., Townsend), the Maryville Welcome Center (201 S. Washington St., Maryville) or at the parking gate on event days.

New Midland Plaza Spring Craft Fair
May 10-11
Up-cycled & recycled creative art, photography, candles, soaps, jewelry, paintings, hand-sewn items, sculptures, quilts, glassware, knitted novelties, crocheting, woodworking, & much more are showcased at one of the largest and most enjoyed craft fairs in the region. Enjoy unique and yummy food offerings from multiple food trucks, & local participants like the fire & police departments.
It’s two days of family friendly fun!

Come Celebrate Our Historical Railroad Heritage
Niota Model Railroad Show
May 4-5
Niota, Tennessee is home to the oldest railroad depot, built in 1854. Originally named Mouse Creek Station, it is the oldest standing depot in the State of Tennessee and one of the oldest in America.
During the Civil War it was used by both the Confederate and Union soldiers as a place of safety and rest. Today, the depot is owned by the City of Niota and used by city departments.
This May 4th – 5th, the depot will host the 2nd annual Niota Model Railroad Show, a free to the public event showcasing train model exhibitors and vendors from around Tennessee and beyond. Last year’s inaugural event featured around 400 businesses from cities including Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Crossville, Knoxville, and Maryville.
The event will be held at the Niota Depot and the Memorial Building- Saturday, May 4th 2019 9am-5pm and Sunday, May 5th 2019 10am-4pm.

Lenoir City Arts & Crafts Festival
June 1-2
The 57th Annual Lenoir City Arts & Crafts Festival will be held in beautiful Lenoir City Park on June 1st and 2nd, and it promises to be better than ever! The quality of the event and superb reputation of the 240 crafters have made this one of the area’s most popular events. Items range from ceramics and glassware to metal work and jewelry,to baskets and much more! A wide array of fast food and home baked delicacies will be available throughout the festival. Your taste buds will delight in old favorites and new flavors. And plenty of cold beverages to satisfy a summer thirst!

Continue Reading →

Smoky Mountain Lights

The Lampyridae are a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged soft-bodied beetles, commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous use of bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates or prey.Did you know that Tennessee is one of the only places in the world that is home to a rare type of firefly? They light up together, completely in sync with each other. Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. Once fireflies reach the age for which they can fly around and light up, they only live for about 21 days. That means the phenomenon that happens in Tennessee is only viewable for about three weeks per year.The largest population of these synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere is right here, close to home at Elkmont Campground. Every year, in late May and early June, the Elkmont fireflies (sometimes also referenced to as Sugarlands Visitor Center fireflies) light up the sky. Located eight miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Elkmont Campground is the largest and busiest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At an elevation of 2,150 feet, the area enjoys a moderate climate, characterized by mild winters and hot, humid summers.For the last few years the National Park Service has used a lottery system to allow only 1,800 cars to park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center during the 8-day event (225 per day). The lottery works like this: You apply on their page during the three-day application period, choosing two possible dates that you would like to attend. About a week later you will receive notice whether your application was accepted or not. If you were accepted you will pay a $20 reservation fee. On the day you are scheduled for, you will show your ID and your parking pass at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Then you will board a trolley for Elkmont Campground.If you are not fortunate enough to score parking passes for the main event at Elkmont, don’t be discouraged. Consider visiting within three days either side of the event when passes are not required. The synchronous fireflies can also be found at the backend of Cades Cove (near the Abrams Falls trailhead) or at Cataloochee Valley. It also appears in recent years that the famous fireflies are showing up in surrounding locations, so as the time approaches stay in touch with your local media outlets or the internet to learn about other locations.Most of us have memories of running around outside on summer nights to watch and catch the fireflies lighting up around us. The synchronous fireflies event is a memory of a lifetime. If you want to experienced it make plans this year to light up your life.

Continue Reading →

Place of Good Abode the History of Memphis

Native Americans were drawn to the bluffs overlooking the river of what is known as Memphis, building their settlements on the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff which protected them from flooding by the mighty river that also provided easy transportation.It was Hernando DeSoto that arrived in 1541 with his army to explore the lower half of the river, setting up camp near the site of Memphis, claiming the land for Spain. That land would change ownership many times over the next 200 years, claimed by France, England and Spain, before the United States of America got involved.In 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state admitted to the Union, and the Chickasaw Indians sold the land to the U.S. government more than 20 years later. It was during that time that future president Andrew Jackson, John Overton and James Winchester decided to join the government to incorporate the town. They further named the place Memphis, a “place of good abode.”Memphis became the largest inland cotton market in the world, but the city’s location and its reliance on slave labor would prove to be a volatile mix in the near future. The Battle of Memphis, a 90-minute fight resulted in the Confederate flag flying over the city being replaced with a United States flag. The Union Army would establish the area as a hospital post which proved beneficial, helping the city rebound after the war.During the yellow fever epidemic of 1873 it all changed as people passed in catastrophic numbers. The epidemic returned years later to nearly wipe out the entire population. Those who were healthy enough to travel, fled the city. Memphis was bankrupt and forced to surrender its charter. Around 1879 when Memphis was just a state taxing district, a wealthy businessman named Robert Church, Sr. began buying up land, primarily on Beale Street. He built Church Park which is still named in his honor on Beale Street.Time passed and the city welcomed the 20th Century, hoping to leave the negatives of previous century behind. It had been plagued with disease, crime and poverty. Anything you needed that might be illegal continued to be available, mostly on Beale Street. But it was also the home to many music clubs that enticed cotton field workers to enjoy good times on the weekends. It would be their “chantings” that would become “blues,” a priceless American musical art form.Another interesting invention that came out of Memphis was the modern supermarket. Local businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first self service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly. It was a huge success, with stores opening across the county, making him a millionaire. He spent the money by building a 22-room, pink marble mansion which along with his company and money would be forfeited when he lost it all. The City of Memphis is the current owner. The mansion dubbed the “Pink Palace” is a museum, planetarium and theater.Then like the bang of the yellow fever, the Depression surged into town. Just like the rest of the country there was no avoiding the disastrous effects of the time. The cotton market and industrious companies of the city would bring relief as America entered World War II. The gift was appreciated and reciprocated as Memphis would inspire the most famous aircraft of the war- Memphis Belle, the first B-17 bomber.In the last months of 1942, American morale needed a boost and the editor of a Memphis paper learned that one of the airplanes doing battle in Europe was named for a local woman, Margaret Polk, by her pilot sweetheart, Robert Morgan. From then on news about the Memphis Belle’s victories appeared regularly. As one of the first airplanes to complete

Continue Reading →

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel

History is often set aside as not applicable today, an issue that has plagued the Civil Rights Movement since inception. The National Civil Rights Museum offers visitors a fully immersed experience through multi-sensory and multimedia innovations combined with historical artifacts. The interactive approach allows all aspects of the historical and current Civil Rights Movement to be interpreted and applied to current times.Located in Memphis,The National Civil Rights Museum is one of the nation’s premier heritage and cultural museums. With a mission to share the lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement, the museum continues to shape equality and freedom globally.Established in 1991, the museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel. Purchased by Walter Bailey in 1945 and renamed after his wife Loree, the two-story concrete block motel structure was one of only a few hotels for which African-American travelers could enjoy accommodations during the segregated eras. Guests enjoyed its upscale atmosphere, home-cooked meals, affordable prices and clean environment. Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding were among the many who stayed at the Lorraine during the 1950s and 1960s.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stayed at the Lorraine Motel many times, especially during t he Memphis sanitation workers strike of 1968. A strike that grew into an important event of the Civil Rights Movement, attracting the attention of the NAACP, the national news media, and Martin Luther King Jr. He first visited the Memphis strike on March 18th, speaking to an audience of thousands at the Mason Temple. On April 3rd, King returned to Memphis and the Mason Temple delivering the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address. In a prophetic finale to his speech, King revealed that he was not afraid to die: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life—longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will… And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord ” On Thursday, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stepped out onto the balcony of his Lorraine Motel room #306 to attend dinner at a local minister’s home. At 6:01 p.m., he was struck in the face by a single .30-06 bullet fired from a Remington Model 760 rifle. The 39 year old civil rights champion and nobel peace laureate was forever silenced. On April 8th, King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, and the couple’s four small children led a crowd estimated at forty thousand in a silent march through the streets of Memphis to honor the fallen leader and support the cause of the city’s sanitation workers.The National Civil Rights Museum is a complex of museums and historic buildings, most of which are directly associated with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther KingJr. On October 21, 2016, the museum was honored by becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. The National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Hotel is a place of history and symbolism for all. Step aboard a vintage bus and hear the Rosa Parks altercation in Montgomery, Alabama or crouch into the hull of a 1700s slave ship to imagine the horrid conditions they endured. The museum collection offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, oral histories, interactive media and external listening posts that guide visitors through five centuries of history. It may be built with bricks and mortar, but the message delivered is enough to change the world, one visitor at a time.

Continue Reading →

Jim Gray: The Artist’s Memories

In space, they are together, ageless. Their image travels on a probe launched four decades ago, now sailing beyond gravity and time. Should it encounter life beyond the stars, a snapshot of their lives will tell part of the human story. On Earth, it was Valentine’s Day, 2019. Jim looked at Fran through his thin-rimmed glasses. He took one hand off his walker and reached for her, and she helped him settle into his seat. They sat hand in hand, Fran’s nails polished a pale pink. A medical alert necklace dangled from her neck. Jim and Fran Gray have been married 65 years. In January, they’d moved into an assisted living center in Bloomington, surrounded by dementia patients like them. In the living area, Billie Holiday was singing about all the old familiar places, and Jim sang softly along. “I’ll be seeing you…” In the distance, three large paintings covered one wall. They show a parade bustling down the street – balloons and confetti, dancers and trumpets. Overhead, two spacecrafts streak across the sky. Jim started painting them when he turned 80 and dementia began to creep into his mind. They weren’t his best work, but that wasn’t the point. Jim was a nationally renowned artist whose landscapes and seascapes continue to hang on the walls of homes and galleries around the world. But when his hands lost their dexterity and his memory started to slip, he painted a series of three canvases called the “Joy of Life Parade.” His earlier paintings were for others. These paintings were for himself. Every character, from the two men balancing on unicycles to the fisherman casting his rod off the back of a pickup truck, is a person he knew. He painted them — all the old familiar faces — because he was afraid he might soon forget. There’s a long-legged woman in a yellow, skin- tight leotard and matching yellow heels. The red on her lips complements the red feathers in her grand, bejeweled headpiece. That’s Fran. The center of the painting and of his life. Now Jim is 86 and Fran is 85. In the assisted living center, Elvis is singing “Love Me Tender.” “Way to go!” Jim tells Elvis. “Shush,” Fran says. Jim met Fran when he went with two Air Force buddies to visit her hometown in Illinois one night. Fran and two other young women pulled up in their car, and his friends talked to the ladies in the front seat. But Jim wanted an introduction to the third girl, sitting in the back. The streetlight lit up her face, and Jim stepped back to take in her beauty. His Frannie. “I just sort of fell in love with her first time I saw her,” Jim said. Fran has been an anchor for Jim ever since. They married and had three children. Art fueled their family. Their daughter Laurie, who eventually became an artist herself, remembers playing a game when they traveled. On her website, she describes how they took turns pointing to something out the car window — a beautiful sky, for instance — and describing what brushes and colors they would use to paint it. Alizarin Crimson? Prussian Blue? Laurie says the game taught her how to see quickly and retain what she saw in her head.

Continue Reading →

Harrah’s Hope Lodge

The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge program provides lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers. It’s a nurturing community that helps patients access the care they need in a homelike environment. Guest share meals, join in evening activities or relax in their own private room.Established in 1970, the Charleston, SC Hope Lodge was the first facility in the country for cancer patients and caregivers. The concept came from Margot Freudenberg, an actively involved volunteer until she was 105, the longest-serving American Cancer Society volunteer.She saw a similar facility while traveling through Australia and New Zealand with President Eisenhower’s People to People Ambassador Program. Today, Hope Lodge are available throughout the United States and Puerto Rico serving patients and caregivers from all over the world.The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Memphis, which opened in 2010, offers lodging centrally located to area treatment centers. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center donated the land for the three-story facility. Aptly named Harrah’s Hope Lodge as the Caesars Foundation, owners of Harrah’s Entertainment, gifted $2,000,000 as part of their pre-opening capital campaign. Harrah’s founding partnership has continued with annual gifts and sparked a powerful connection with the local Tunica casino employees volunteering more than 500 hours annually.When choosing where to receive cancer treatment, a patient usually decides to stay close to home, however, that is not always possible. Specialized treatment can be far from home and in the situations where travel is necessary, many encounter the inability to afford those expenses. It can be a barrier for receiving the best possible care in their cancer fight, Memphis is home to many cancer specialist not found anywhere else in Tennessee. Prior to the opening in 2010, patients reported avoiding treatment, traveling extensive miles back and forth from home or sleeping in cars while parked at the treatment centers. Those barriers are broken down by the Harrah’s Hope Lodge with a staff committed to providing a nurturing environment for guests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.The first floor of Harrah’s Hope Lodge features communal dining, kitchens, library and recreational areas, while the second and third floors have a total of 40 suitesfor cancer patients and a guest/caregiver. Located at 718 Union Ave. directly east of Sun Studio providing about 70 patients with a comfortable, welcoming home-away-from- home. But most importantly, Harrah’s Hope Lodge provides camaraderie. Friendships are formed as patients and caregivers take comfort in the knowledge that they’re not alone in their fight against cancer.Support from volunteers and local organizations is critical to the American Cancer Society’s mission of providing free lodging to cancer patients and their caregivers.Visit to learn more about how to get involved or donate.

Continue Reading →

Happy Birthday McMinn County

Birthdays happen every year. Usually we look forward to them and eagerly await aday to celebrate ourselves or someone we care for. Certain birthday celebrations carry special weight, the day you become 10! You have two digits to describe how old youare, small detail but still meaningful. 13 in some cultures means you’re adult enoughto be held to a higher standard for your actions. Debatable on the value of that one but at least there’s still cake. A 16th birthday can have special privileges added – driving yourself to a friends house is now possible. At 18 and you’re an adult in every legal way and you have the ability to do almost anything you want, the world is a challenge waiting for you to seize upon. Turning 21 has meaning for some while others celebrate 29 – for the third time. Hitting the mid-century 5-0 mark can cause you to think a bit more about your past and what you have accomplished. Somewhere in your 60’s you look forward to celebrate retirement and if you are fortunate enough to have three digits to describeyour age, people you don’t even know will celebrate with you. Well, maybe you do know hem you just can’t remember…at least there’s still cake. McMinn County is turning 200 this year and we have much to celebrate. Not just having lasted as a de ned land location somewhere in eastern Tennessee but as a place who’s in uence has affected much more than is contained in the lines drawn on a map. Take some time to celebrate and re ect on the triumphs birthed from here that have affected quite literally the world. The county is named after Joseph McMinn who served in the revolutionary war and as the 4th governor of Tennessee. No small tasks to begin with. The actions from this community continued to take shape and form ideas that stretched beyond the county line. Many positive actions and some not so glowing events ll in our past. The Native American removal left a signi cant mark in our history we still try to understand to this day. After a civil war and rebuilding a nation this area was known as a hotbed for volunteers in both global wars. Every single person was valuable in those ghts. The letters to those troops fueled their spirits amid con ict but it was just one letter from home in this county that changed someone’s mind and allowed women the right to vote in this country. A battle in the streets here changed how those votes were handled and the resolutions formed from that skirmish still in uences voting standards throughout the United States to this day. Civil rights changes did play out here but this area is not known for the violent clashes so many other location had. Instead we are not know for them – which I think speaks better of us. People who lived through some of these pivotal moments in McMinn’s history still walk our streets today, and if you haven’t talked to them you should. Their understanding and perspective will help guide you through the next pivotal moments McMinn residents and this region will face. In the meantime – celebrate this counties 200th birthday and celebrate what we have done as a community! And, you should even take some time to re ect on those missteps in our path from 1819 that led us to where we are today. Whatever day today happens to be when you’re reading this there is probably a bicentennial celebration somewhere in McMinn county getting ready to happen or happening. You should go out and enjoy it. And there will most likely be cake.

Continue Reading →

East Tennessee Foundation’s First Philanthropic Leadership Series Event Tackled the Subject of Opioid Addiction and How Charitable Efforts May Have an Impact

In April 2018, East Tennessee Foundation (ETF) granted local research nonprofit, Three 3, the opportunity to convene a workshop for community leaders and subject matter experts connected to the opioid epidemic in East Tennessee. The goal of the workshop was triple-aimed. The workshop served to better understand contributing factors of the epidemic and to identify opportunities for further cross-sector collaborations at the community level. The second aim was to produce a conceptual diagram that displays a future community network operating from within and on the periphery of the existing opioid epidemic. Understanding the system of interactions at the community level provides a pathway to the third and long-term objective: to identify collaborative interventions that achieve meaningful outcomes for those both directly and indirectly affected by the opioid crisis and inform ETF fund holders.
With the grant, Three 3 was able to conduct a wide review of research articles, media reports and testimonials. Taken together with the inputs from thought leaders at the workshop, Three 3 produced a network diagram that maps various connections between agencies and key players within critical sectors within or adjacent to local communities.
As a result, on October 16, 2018, ETF hosted their first PHILANTHROPIC LEADERSHIP SERIES held exclusively for fund holders entitled Breaking the Cycle of Opioid Addiction. The main objectives of the briefing were to:
Inform community leaders and philanthropists on the benefit of applying a ‘systems approach’ to better understand and solve complex social problems.
Identify and characterize existing collaborative programs or efforts related to substance misuse prevention and recovery in the East Tennessee region.
Explore new interventions (i.e., additional programs or solutions) to strengthen the system.
Dr. Mark McGrail, Director of Addiction Medicine at Cherokee Health Systems, kicked off the day with background on the progressive disease of addiction, which he defines as “a chronic disease with biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations.” Dr. McGrail stated that the path to addiction often involves losing meaningful relationships with friends and family. This path tends to involve feelings of guilt, shame, and self-hatred which further contribute to the cycle of substance misuse. Because of the complex nature of the disease, a person who becomes addicted will likely require long-term ‘wrap-around’ care to reduce the obstacles leading to recovery – further underscoring the benefit of a network or systems approach for addressing the epidemic at the community level with external support. A panel moderated by Brandon Hollingsworth, News Director at WUOT, featured Dr. Robert Pack of East TN State University, Dr. Carole Myers of UT, Knoxville, and Charlene Hipsher and Phillip Martin representing a nonprofit in the Ninth Judicial District called Align9. Panel members shared their challenges and successes spearheading community level collaborative efforts to counteract this epidemic. In addition to her teaching and research roles at UT, Dr. Myers produces Health Connections, a weekly podcast featuring health care topics often related to the opioid epidemic.
She emphasized that the health-care system accounts for roughly 20% of good health outcomes, but that economic policy, housing, transportation, and other community level factors influence the rest. Dr. Pack heads the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, which conducts research, trains health professionals, and provides evidence-based clinical care. The center also convenes stakeholders monthly to discuss current efforts and identify opportunities for collaboration. Hipsher and Martin with Align9 have “reached across the aisle” to align local resources to support an individual’s recovery efforts. These resources include support, financial planning/life skills, law enforcement, and the justice system. Martin emphasized that all these resources are critical, but overcoming stigma and productively channeling volunteers’ passion remain top priorities. Dr. Meyers’ and Dr. Pack’s efforts focus on scalable and sustainable solutions, including capacity-building within communities. Dr. Pack closed the panel by noting that preventative measures, such as life skills and parenting training, produce positive outcomes as well. He pointed to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Communities That Care model, a risk and protective factor approach to substance misuse prevention, as a resource.
Lastly, the attendees participated in a facilitated discussion to identify opportunities to support community level efforts related to prevention and recovery. Participants identified increased understanding and destigmatization of addiction as critical factors, as both upstream (prevention) and downstream (recovery) efforts. Creating a hub and spoke system of referrals that includes law enforcement (e.g. drug courts) and improved wraparound services were also priorities. From these discussions, participants generated potential next steps that ETF could take in fostering solutions to the opioid epidemic in East Tennessee.

“East Tennessee Foundation is taking an active role in the effort to tackle the opioid crisis in our community. My colleagues and I at Three 3 are honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with ETF and others across the region that are addressing this devastating epidemic our communities are burdened with.”
-Bruce Tonn, President, Three 3

Continue Reading →