Samantha Brantley stood in front of 30 attendees from the community at Miller’s Chapel UMC, with purple lights and beautiful stained-glass windows positioned behind her, and a memorial board in the foyer in front of her. The memorial board displayed some of the many faces and names of people in our community who have been lost to substance use and addiction.
ICare Union County
ICARE is a coalition dedicated to preventing alcohol and substance abuse in Union County, Tennessee. They meet on the last Thursday of each month at 11:30 am at Li’l Joe's BBQ, and the meetings are open to the public.
ICARE's director is Mindy Grimm, and her administrative assistant is Amanda Tucker (owner/operator of Liquid Lightning coffee shop in Maynardville). ICARE does not have 501c3 nonprofit designation, so it cannot solicit funds from the public. ICARE is a member of the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee and is funded by grants.
In 2017, according to the latest numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health, 1,776 people suffered fatal overdoses. Of those 1,268 were opioid overdoses. These numbers could decrease if more people understood The Good Samaritan Laws of 2015. During an emergency related to opioid overdose, bystanders should call 911 for emergency assistance but often don’t due to the fear of arrest or prosecution. This is especially true if they use or have a history of opioid use themselves.
Mindy Grimm took over as Union County's ICare Drug Coalition coordinator in July 2017, and while she's hosted monthly meetings and a couple of tailgates during football season, events haven't been her focus. Instead, she's hard at work gathering data on youth drug and alcohol abuse to build a program targeted at Union County's unique needs.
"We don't know what we don't know," she said. "We're reassessing the whole framework to try to build a foundation for the kind of change that we need."