MTSU center obtains federal funding to alleviate W...

MTSU center obtains federal funding to alleviate Wilson County opioid epidemic

With federal funding, MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services will tackle the opioid epidemic in rural Wilson County communities.

The center will use a $200,000 planning grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Partners in the 18-month endeavor include Wilson County’s DrugFree WilCo, MTSU’s Department of Health and Human Performance and MTSU’s Data Science Institute, among others.

Cynthia Chafin, associate director for community programs, Center for Health and Human Services interim director
Cynthia Chafin
Dr. Kahler W. Stone, assistant professor, Department of Health and Human Performance
Dr. Kahler Stone

“While so much emphasis has been on COVID-19, we cannot forget that there remains an epidemic in this country and within our own state and local communities with opioids and substance abuse,” said Cynthia Chafin, CHHS associate director of community programs.

Department of Health and Human Performance logo

Chafin and Kahler Stone, an assistant professor of health and human performance, will take the lead on the project. Ryan Otter, a professor of biology, and Charles Apigian, a professor of information systems and analytics, will help DrugFree Wilco meet grant requirements with DrugFree WilCo member Michael Ayalon as local coordinator.

DrugFree WilCo, a nonprofit organization, was formed in 2018 when Lisa Tapley contacted local officials following the death of her son, Thomas. After suffering a work injury, Thomas Tapley began taking pills laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that the National Institute on Drug Abuse says is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Dr. Ryan Otter, associate professor, Department of Biology, co-director, Data Science Institute
Dr. Ryan Otter
Dr. Charlie Apigian, professor, chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems
Dr. Charlie Apigian

“By participating in this planning grant, we are positioning ourselves to better address the opioid problem in our county,” said Capt. Scott Moore of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.

“In 2019, we responded to 39 overdose-related calls,” Moore said. “This year, we have already responded to 33 calls, which is a pattern that will surpass last year’s total, and we have seen 11 deaths already.”

MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services uses collaborative affiliations and partnerships to facilitate projects, programs and research activities in public health issues of importance to Tennessee and that of the nation.

For more information, contact Chafin at 615-898-5493 or or go to To learn more about DrugFree WilCo, go to

— Gina Logue (