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MTSU Center for Health and Human Services continues grant-funded fight against opioids in Wilson County

MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services continues to work with rural Wilson County communities and partners to combat opioid misuse as part of a $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

An agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA awarded the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, or RCORP, grant in 2021 to the Center for Health and Human Services, which has since worked with Wilson County agencies and community partners to address the public health crisis.

Center for Health and Human Services logo

In 2020, Wilson County reported 79 overdose deaths, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, while the state of Tennessee reported 3,023 total overdose deaths that year. 

Various initiatives have been implemented in Wilson County to help reduce overdose deaths. One of the more successful interventions has been a diversion center, otherwise known as the Preventing Incarceration in Communities Center, or PIC Center. Addiction treatment provider Cedar Recovery launched the center under a grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in collaboration with CHHS partner DrugFree WilCo

Jayson Lawson, alumnus, district attorney general, 15th Judicial District
Jayson Lawson

MTSU alumnus Jason L. Lawson, district attorney general for the 15th Judicial District, has helped build the policies and procedures of the PIC Center, whose clients are referred directly from the Wilson County district attorney’s office, usually after an arrest or recent incarceration. 

Clients report to the PIC Center for an initial assessment and then are referred to a suitable treatment facility. The treatment facility reports the client’s progress on a weekly basis, and follow-up assessments are scheduled at the center after one month, three months and six months. After clients graduate from the program, the PIC Center advocates for their charges to be dropped based on their completion of treatment.  

The work of the PIC Center is incorporated into the work plan of the Center for Health and Human Services’ RCORP grant, which also provides funds for additional treatment for the uninsured in Wilson County and transportation to treatment appointments for rural clients.

The results of the PIC project are significant: 14 people have graduated since the program began in November 2021. The current number of active clients is 40. To date, the project has shown an 80% success rate. 

Derrell Seigler, program director, Preventing Incarceration in Communities Center or PIC Center
Derrell Seigler

“This is a program that gives many a second chance they would not normally have,” said Derrell Seigler, program director of the PIC Center. “The goal of the program is not just diversion but ultimately to change lives and help people move forward.” 

Seigler’s goal is to help give those with substance use issues a second chance after a drug-related criminal charge. The CHHS RCORP team and stakeholders in Wilson County say they believe the PIC Center is a key initiative to reducing the recidivism rate in the county and getting clients treatment they need to lead successful lives. 

In October, CHHS participated in a two-day site visit with HRSA representatives. They met with the MTSU team and Wilson County stakeholders to discuss the CHHS grant that HRSA had awarded, talk about clients’ progress and to finalize a work plan for the coming year. The site visit included stops at the PIC Center along with visits to other grantee partners.   

Cynthia Chafin, associate director for community programs, Center for Health and Human Services interim director
Cynthia Chafin

CHHS is committed to addressing the national opioid crisis and is working on a new grant application which, if funded, would bring money and resources to two other Middle Tennessee rural counties.

For more information on MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services and the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program grant for Wilson County or to learn how the center can help meet your organization’s research, training, or education needs, contact Cynthia Chafin at 615-898-5493 or Cynthia.chafin@mtsu.edu or visit the center’s website at www.mtsu.edu/chhs.

— Cynthia Chafin (Cynthia.Chafin@mtsu.edu) and Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)


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