Hamilton County Coalition has been a pillar in Chattanooga and other Southeast Tennessee communities in providing prevention resources for overdose, substance abuse disorder, and more, said officials. As Hamilton County Coalition entered its 11th year of operation at the beginning of 2020, its staff, directors, and partners had developed a procedural way of accomplishing their goals. But when COVID-19 shutdowns began locally in mid-March, many of these standards were deemed unsafe.
“Being inside the communities we serve to build relationships and understand their needs has been our best method to enact positive change, so we had to make a lot of difficult decisions on how to move forward safely and effectively in a time where COVID-19 cases and overdose rates were devastating many of our communities,” Hamilton County Coalition Executive Director Camilla Bibbs-Lee said. “The creativity and work ethic of our staff and partners helped keep our operations seamless and sparked innovations that we can continue using in the future.”
Below are some of the new ways Hamilton County Coalition served Region 3-South (Bledsoe, Bradley, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, and Sequatchie Counties) wit overdose and substance abuse prevention information, COVID-19 education, RX medication storage and disposal tips, and more. Find these highlights in the Hamilton County Coalition’s 2020 Year in Review here: https://www.hccoalition.org/year-in-review-2020
Virtual Opioid Overdose Prevention Trainings
When the pandemic lockdown began in March, Hamilton County Coalition shifted its Opioid Overdose Prevention Trainings to a virtual format for the first time. Since then, HCC has virtually trained over 260 individuals in overdose prevention - while also training approximately 100 people in-person in compliance with CDC guidelines.
Virtual RX Drug Take Back
April’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, so Hamilton County Coalition virtually raised awareness of permanent drop-box locations where individuals can safely dispose of any unused or expired medications year-round. In Hamilton County, over 1,900 pounds of medications were collected for proper disposal from drug take backs and the permanent drop-box locations in 2020.
Hamilton County Coalition also provided a way for individuals to practice proper RX disposal and storage methods from home by distributing free Deterra Drug Deactivation Pouches, and RX medications lockboxes. The Deterra Drug Deactivation Pouch is a safe and easy way to dispose of RX medications in the trash, while the RX medication lock boxes can ensure substances do not end up in the wrong hands.
Organized its annual Youth Empowerment Society Summer Program under COVID-19 guidelines. The Y.E.S. Summer Program is traditionally centered around providing peer-to-peer mentorship to at-risk youth in the Chattanooga-area. However, with many youth centers and camps being closed during the pandemic, this year’s curriculum involved 16 virtual presentations on the dangers of drug misuse and abuse. Members of the Y.E.S. Program also helped publish a drug and alcohol prevention coloring book that were handed-out to students in local schools.
Added the Lifeline Peer Project and Reentry Program to create new paths in helping people in Region 3-South overcome Substance Use Disorder
The Lifeline Peer Project is a faith-based initiative established to connect individuals with treatment related to the disease of addiction and increase access to substance abuse recovery.
The Reentry Program identifies an individual’s risks and needs upon entry into the justice system and develops a system of treatment and programming throughout their incarceration, transition, and reentry into the community.
Created two new ways to honor International Overdose Awareness Day
Inspired by the Red Sand Project to raise awareness of human trafficking, Hamilton County Coalition created the Purple Sand Challenge - the official color of International Overdose Awareness Day - to remember the millions of lives around the world that have been unfortunately lost to overdose.
HCC also coordinated with many Chattanooga businesses like Hunter Museum of American Art, Tennessee Aquarium, High Point Climbing and Fitness and Ruby Falls to light their buildings purple in honor of the day.
Helped Host ‘Pop Up for Hope’ events with Social Emotional Workforce Committee
These events emerged to spread love and happiness and reduce social isolation during the most trying times of the pandemic. The committee with partners like NAMI Chattanooga, Erlanger Behavioral Health, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, and more helped host 10 ‘Pop Up for Hope’ events - including a Christmas Food Drive just days before the holiday.
Received the Tennessee Community CARES Grant for COVID-19 relief
Overdose rates and COVID-19 cases have been on the same trajectory throughout the pandemic. The Tennessee CARES Grant helped Hamilton County Coalition provide free resources to the public like masks, hand sanitizer and pamphlets on coping with stress and anxiety.
“We have a big responsibility to communities we serve, and it’s a proud feeling knowing we made positive impacts in a time where they needed it the most,” Ms. Bibbs-Lee continued. “We’re looking forward to 2021 and beyond with a new arsenal of resources and methods to facilitate positive community change.”