Supporting Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment in Middle Tennessee

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is dedicated to providing services for people of all ages living with mental illness, co-occurring disorders, or severe emotional disorders. These services include housing, crisis services, suicide prevention, and peer-to-peer recovery. In rural areas, family doctors, psychologists, social workers, and pastors may be available to provide basic substance abuse services or social support. However, comprehensive substance use treatment centers are limited.

The goal is to create a state of resilience, recovery and independence where Tennesseans living with mental illness and substance use disorders can thrive. Rural religious and church organizations can also play an important role in promoting substance use prevention. The Disaster Helpline, funded by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Administration, is a national hotline dedicated to providing disaster counseling year-round. Additionally, RHIHub's section on models of prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in rural areas provides several other prevention programs.

It is important to note that substance use and misuse are not only an inner-city problem; they have long been prevalent in rural areas as well. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publication entitled Drug Abuse Prevention among Children and Adolescents states that high levels of risk are often accompanied by low levels of protective or preventive factors. Prevention programs can help reduce substance use in rural communities, especially when they focus on adolescents. Primary care providers in rural areas can also play a key role in addressing substance use through screening to identify patients suffering from substance use disorder (SUD), encouraging them to seek treatment and referring them to appropriate treatment services.

The Tennessee RED LINE is a toll-free information and referral line coordinated by the Tennessee Alcohol, Drug and Other Addiction Services Association (TAADAS) and funded by the TDMHSAS. This helpline provides disaster counseling year-round. Treatment provided to uninsured people is funded through global grants administered by the TDMHSAS. Substance use disorders can lead to an increase in illegal activities and have consequences for physical and social health, such as poor academic performance, worse health status, changes in brain structure, and an increased risk of death from overdose and suicide.

Substance abuse is the use of any substance that is outside of the prescribed or intended use of that substance, such as the unauthorized use of prescription drugs or the consumption of alcohol by minors. For more models of substance use treatment and prevention, see RhiHub Models and Innovations for Substance Use and Misuse. Additionally, there is a toolkit for the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in rural areas which provides a step-by-step guide on how to implement a substance use treatment program in rural areas. Unfortunately, due to limited resources for prevention, treatment and recovery, substance use can be especially difficult to combat in rural communities.

Herbert Denbow
Herbert Denbow

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