The Southeast High Impact Area (SE HIA) is jointly composed of Hamilton County (Chattanooga metropolitan area) and the 10 surrounding counties served by the Southeast Regional Office (SERO) under the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH). The SERO counties include Bledsoe, Bradley, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, and Sequatchie. TDH SERO’s Substance Misuse Response Coordinator leads the SE HIA on behalf of the 10-county “Region,” and the Hamilton County Health Department’s Overdose Prevention Program Manager leads the SE HIA on behalf of the Hamilton County/Chattanooga “Metro.”
Southeast Regional Substance Misuse Task Force
The Southeast Regional Substance Misuse Task Force (Task Force) convened for the first time in December 2020 with multi-sector representation from all 11 counties. In the Spring of 2021, the SE HIA was formed and embarked upon a coordinated public health planning process to outline priority activities for the communities served. The Task Force meets quarterly, leveraging cross-sector leadership involvement from public safety/law enforcement, healthcare, the judicial system, faith-based organizations, schools and higher education, mental health, treatment and recovery supports, nonprofit organizations, community advocacy groups, and the private sector.
In the Spring of 2021, members of the Task Force identified substance misuse prevention education as a top priority for the SE HIA. In the Metro, the Hamilton County Health Department created a targeted social media campaign that addresses the stigma and science of substance misuse, while sharing the hope and recovery stories of those with lived experience. In the Region, several counties (including Marion and Polk) are offering the Botvin LifeSkills® Training (LST) curriculum to a range of students in elementary, middle, and high schools. This comprehensive, evidence-based prevention education program is currently delivered by health and physical education teachers, school counselors, school resource officers (SROs), university extension agents, and local public health officials.
The SE HIA also initiated the STEPS Project [Southeast Tennessee Emergency Department Protocols for Substance Use Disorder (SUD)] in September 2021. This ambitious project connects providers from 17 Emergency Departments in southeast Tennessee with multiple public health programs, harm reduction services, and SUD treatment and recovery resources across the state. Emergency Departments serve on the front lines of the overdose crisis and provide a critical opportunity for intervention. The STEPS Project aims to support implementation of targeted screening for SUD, facilitated referrals, peer navigation and recovery services, access to naloxone, and initiation of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in the ER setting. The STEPS Project is led by the TDH SERO Substance Misuse Response Coordinator; the core team includes the Hamilton County Overdose Prevention Program Manager, a Physician Consultant (Rebecca Martin, MD, PhD) who practices in both emergency medicine and addiction medicine, and three OD2A-funded TN Recovery Navigators who are employed by the Council for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (CADAS) in Chattanooga.
Rachel Swafford, MPH, CPH
Regional Substance Misuse Response Coordinator
Southeast Regional Office