Aug. 1 Speakers

Tommy Farmer, special agent in charge, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Thomas Farmer is a special agent in charge with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state director of the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force. He has over 30 years of experience in law enforcement, 20 of which were in the field of drug enforcement. Farmer has received extensive specialized training and certifications from various accredited federal, state, local and private training programs such as the DEA, FBI, Department of Justice, Homeland Security and TBI in the areas of advanced investigation, drug enforcement, chemical and pharmaceutical diversion, clandestine laboratory, special weapons and tactics. He served as an advisor to the Tennessee Governors Methamphetamine Drug Task Force responsible for the Meth-Free Tennessee Act. He is currently the director of the Governor’s Task Force over Marijuana Eradication, a board member for the National Meth & Pharmaceuticals Initiative as part of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy and an advisory board member for the National Alliance of Model State Drug Laws Precursor Tracking Initiative.

Dissolving the Stigma Panel


Moderator – Judge Paul G. Summers

Judge Paul G. Summers serves as director of corporate and government relations at the Jason Foundation, Inc., a national nonprofit foundation dedicated to the education and prevention of youth suicide. He was commissioned as a senior judge of Tennessee by the Supreme Court in 2013 and has served as the State of Tennessee attorney general, judge of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and district attorney general for a multi-county district in Tennessee. Additionally, he was a partner in the Nashville office of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP. Judge Summers served as a JAG officer for more than three decades in both active and reserve duty with the Air Force, Army and National Guard. His last duty assignment was command staff judge advocate with the Tennessee Army National Guard. He retired with the rank of colonel to the U.S. Army Retired Reserve in 2005. Upon his retirement after 33 years of commissioned military service, Gov. Phil Bredesen awarded Judge Summers the National Guard Distinguished Service Medal. General Summers was also awarded the Legion of Merit by the Department of Defense. He is also a member of the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative and the Tennessee Judicial Opioid Initiative.


Monty Burks, director of Faith-Based Initiatives, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Monty Burks serves as the director of faith-based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Through this role, he engages and connects Tennessee’s faith communities to the behavioral health care system, with the goal of expanding addiction and mental health support services across the state. He also oversees the Tennessee Lifeline Peer Project, a state program aimed at reducing the stigma associated with people who suffer from addiction and the Tennessee Faith-Based Community Coordinators, who seek to help congregations build their capacity to combat addiction and mental health issues in their respective community. Burks has more than 18 years of experience working with the criminal justice system in various roles, including adjunct criminal justice professor at Motlow State Community College, criminal justice research analyst at Middle Tennessee State University and criminal justice program coordinator at Tennessee State University, where he still serves as an adjunct professor of criminal justice.


Jan Clift, survivor

Jan Clift is a survivor of a drug-related shooting. A man shot Clift, her co-worker, the pharmacist and customer while stealing prescription drugs from Down Home Pharmacy. After battling depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for over four years, Clift embarked on a mission to speak out for both drug-related shooting victims and the addicts that feel pushed to the point of murder. Clift began speaking around Grainger County to both victims and addicts. She forgave her shooter and hopes others will help addicts before they reach the same point.


Clark Flatt, president, The Jason Foundation, Inc.

Clark Flatt is a nationally-recognized speaker on the topic of youth-suicide awareness and prevention. With over 20 years of experience in suicide prevention, he leads one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofits whose mission is addressing the national health crisis of youth suicide. The Jason Foundation, Inc. was founded in October of 1997 after the tragic death of Flatt’s 16-year-old son Jason to the “silent epidemic” of youth suicide. Since its founding, JFI has grown to be one of the nation’s leading nonprofits addressing the national health crisis of youth suicide. The Jason Foundation, its National Community Affiliates and National Awareness Affiliates create a national network of over 126 local affiliate offices located in 34 states. This network has programs and services available in all fifty states.


Dr. Stephen Loyd, medical director, JourneyPure at the River

Dr. Stephen Loyd serves as the medical director for JourneyPure at the River, an addiction treatment facility located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has served as the chief of medicine at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center in Johnson City, Tennessee and was recently the medical director and assistant commissioner for Substance Abuse Services for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. For the last eight years, he has focused on addiction medicine with an interest in the opioid-dependent pregnant patient. He has been in recovery from opioids and benzodiazepines addiction since July 8, 2004.


David Rausch, director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

David B. Rausch currently serves as the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to serve in this role in June of 2018. From 1986 to 1990, he enlisted and served in the United States Army Military Police Corps, where he attained the rank of sergeant. He then served for 25 years in the Knoxville Police Department, serving his last 7 years as chief of police. He was also on the department’s Special Operations Squad (SWAT Team) for 10 years from 1997 to 2007.


Judge Duane Slone, circuit court judge, 4th judicial district

Judge Duane Slone is the circuit court judge in the 4th judicial district. He is widely recognized as an effective collaborator and innovator for his efforts to address the opioid-driven addiction crisis. Currently, Judge Slone serves as chairman of the eight-state Appalachian-Midwest Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative, the Tennessee Judicial Opioid Initiative and the Tennessee Judicial Conference Problem Solving Committee. He is a member of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Advisory Committee for Women’s Services. He is a former drug trafficking prosecutor and co-founded his judicial district’s Drug Recovery Court in 2009.

State Response Panel #1


Keith Gaither, director of Managed Care Operations, TennCare

Keith Gaither is the director of Managed Care Operations for TennCare, Tennessee’s $12 billion Medicaid managed care program. TennCare provides coordinated physical, behavioral and long-term care coverage to 1.4 million Tennesseans. Gaither is responsible for managing TennCare’s relationship with its three managed care companies, CHIP contractor and the state mental health and children’s services agencies. Those responsibilities include Managed Care Operations contract compliance and enforcement, behavioral health operations and integration and program integrity. In that capacity he has completed the integration of managed behavioral health services into a single managed care model. In 2009, TennCare and Gaither’s team received the President’s Award from the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations for their work in implementing integrated behavioral health into managed care plans.


Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner, Department of Health

Dr. Lisa Piercey serves as the 14th commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health. Preceding her public service, Dr. Piercey spent a decade in health systems operations, most recently as executive vice president of West Tennessee Healthcare, a public, not-for-profit health system with over 7,000 employees servicing 22 counties. Her executive responsibilities included oversight of five rural acute care hospitals, two inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, eight community mental health centers and the system’s population health initiatives. Prior to this role, she served as the vice president of Physician Services, managing the 17 clinics and approximately 90 providers of the West Tennessee Medical Group.


Matt Yancey, deputy commissioner, Community Behavioral Health Programs, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Matt Yancey serves as the deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In this role, he provides leadership for the department’s community behavioral health programs, including the Division of Mental Health Services, the Division of Substance Abuse Services and the Office of Research. As deputy commissioner, Yancey directly supports the department’s commissioner in providing, planning and promoting a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation and recovery support services for Tennesseans with mental illness and substance abuse issues. Yancey provides oversight of over 750 contracts with vendors to provide community-based programs and services across Tennessee with an annual budget of approximately $200 million and a team of over 100 people. Before being appointed deputy commissioner, Yancey served as the TDMHSAS assistant commissioner for the Division of Mental Health Services, the director for the Office of Children, Young Adults and Families with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the director for the Office of Adolescent and School Health with the Georgia Department of Public Health and as project director for a SAMHSA Safe Schools/Healthy Students federal grant awarded to the Cobb County School District in Marietta, Georgia. Yancey also has extensive experience in child welfare, having previously served the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Lunch Keynote – Matt Harris, UT Knoxville College of Business

Matt Harris is an associate professor of Economics in the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research and the Department of Economics at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. He is the Michael Stahl PEMBA faculty research fellow in the Haslam College of Business. Harris has published articles in the International Economic Review, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, The Economic Journal, the Journal of Human Resources and the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. Harris’ work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. He is a member of the American Society of Health Economists, the Royal Economic Society and the American Economic Association. He has also taught economics to MBA students for the Duke Fuqua School of Business.

State Response #2


Jim Casey, director of Behavioral Health Services, Tennessee Department of Corrections

As a graduate of Argosy University, Orange County, California, in 2008, with a degree as a Doctor of Psychology, Dr. Jim Casey has dedicated his career to the practice of developing tools and intervention techniques to treat mental illness, behavioral issues, and emotional distress. He has specialized in the treatment of substance use disorders, both as a clinician and administrator. He has served as a substance use expert for federal criminal cases, been a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and has served as a substance use expert for multiple advocacy groups for impaired professionals. During his two years of service with the Tennessee Department of Correction as the StatewideDirector of Behavioral Health Services, Dr. Casey has dedicated extensive time and effort addressing the growing crisis of opioid addiction. He has taken aggressive action in order to combat this crisis and has worked at building uncompromising cognitive behavioral health programs as well as contributing to the Men’s Rehabilitation Center at West Tennessee State Penitentiary, an entire prison dedicated to the treatment of opioid addiction. Additionally, Dr. Casey currently directs all clinical services for six-day reporting centers (DRC) across the state which offer an alternative to incarceration featuring a three­-phase treatment regimen for people with moderate to severe substance use issues.


Darren B. DeArmond

Darren DeArmond is an assistant special agent in charge with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. DeArmond currently supervises multiple ongoing TBI drug investigations within thirteen counties of East Tennessee, including Knox County. He is a twenty-seven-year law enforcement veteran who began his career with the Knoxville Police Department in 1992. During his twenty-one years with the TBI, he has worked in several roles, including the assignment to task forces with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. During his career, DeArmond has conducted multiple federal drug investigations centered on the distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine in the East Tennessee area.  He also has conducted multiple high-profile public corruption investigations in East Tennessee.


Jeff Long, commissioner, Department of Safety and Homeland Security

Prior to being appointed commissioner of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Jeff Long was elected sheriff of Williamson County in August 2008. He has served in the criminal justice field for the past 44 years as an assistant district attorney for the 21st Judicial District, special agent in charge with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, investigator for the 21st Judicial District, arson investigator with the Tennessee Fire Marshall’s Office, captain with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and federal hospital police officer with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.


Jennifer Nichols, commissioner, Department of Children’s Services

Jennifer Nichols was appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to be the commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services in January 2019. Prior to joining DCS, Nichols served as an assistant district attorney general in Shelby County for over 20 years. During her tenure at the DA’s Office, she was the deputy district attorney, or first assistant, to the district attorney general where she supervised the day-to-day operations of the office and its employees. Before being named as deputy, she served as the chief prosecutor over the Special Victims Unit. There she supervised and handled child homicides, child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, elder abuse and other special projects while also working closely with the Department of Children’s Services as well as law enforcement.

Federal Government Response Panel


Michael King, regional administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Captain Michael King is social worker and epidemiologist who has served at the intersection of behavioral and public health for over 15 years. Prior to joining SAMHSA in 2019, he supported State and Federal public health capacity at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an instructor and Field Supervisor for post-doctoral fellows enrolled in the Epidemic Intelligence Service. CAPT King previously served for over 10 years on the National Asthma Surveillance Team in the National Center for Environmental Health where his interests focused on chronic disease surveillance, environmental exposure and hazard assessment, and disaster mental health. As a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, CAPT King deploys routinely following disasters and has had the privilege to lead one of five national Mental Health Response teams (Team 5) that provide crisis counseling and technical assistance to medically-underserved populations, with a focus on emergency public health response.


Betty-Ann Bryce, public health, education and treatment – rural lead, Office of National Drug Control Policy

Betty-Ann Bryce currently serves as special advisor/rural lead in the Public Health Education and Treatment Group for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. She joined ONDCP from the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she served as a senior policy advisor in the Rural Development Agency. Prior to joining the U.S. government, she served as the senior policy analyst for the Rural and Regional Unit at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In this capacity, she assessed regional and rural government policies in different countries and contributed to several OECD Publications.

Karen Pershing, executive director, Metro Drug Coalition

Karen Pershing currently serves as the executive director for the Metro Drug Coalition. In this role she provides organizational oversight and helps guide Metro Drug Coalition’s mission. With over 30 years of experience in public health, Pershing has devoted her career to improving the health of families in Knoxville. She works with local and state policymakers to advocate for laws that help prevent substance abuse and its consequences, and she is passionate about prescription drug abuse prevention, specifically targeting Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and increasing access to treatment for pregnant women. In 2012, she was chosen as one of only four community leaders to serve on a statewide planning group to develop a five-year prevention plan for Tennessee. Karen is a graduate of Leadership Knoxville Class of 2013 and Women’s Addiction Services Leadership Institute Class of 2013. The Knox County Prescription Drug Task Force that was formed under her leadership has been recognized as a model coalition by the Tennessee Departments of Health and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Rob Pack, professor of Community and Behavioral Health, associate dean for Academic Affairs, ETSU

Robert Pack is the professor of Community and Behavioral Health, associate dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University, executive director of the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment and co-director of the Opioids Research Consortium of Central Appalachia (ORCA). The Center grew out of a university and community collaborative that was started in 2012 to address the regional problem of prescription opioid abuse. In 2017, the Center partnered with the region’s largest health system, Ballad Health, and the region’s largest mental healthcare system, Frontier Health, to open a nonprofit opioid treatment program in the Northeast Tennessee region. The clinic, called Overmountain Recovery, is the only clinic in the region that offers methadone and buprenorphine maintenance therapy and counseling for opioid use disorder. The clinic has been open since October 2017 and currently serves more than 270 clients in the region.


Aug. 2 Speakers

Carla Saunders, founder and CEO, One Tennessee

Carla Worley Saunders is founder and chief executive officer of ONE Tennessee. ONE Tennessee is a grassroots nonprofit organization with the mission of engaging healthcare in multidisciplinary collaboration to improve the quality of care and patient safety in pain management practices while minimizing unintended consequences in caring for people with acute and chronic pain in Tennessee. Saunders has been a board-certified neonatal nurse practitioner since 1990. In 2010 she gathered a multidisciplinary team in response to the alarming rise of babies being admitted to the NICU with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). They developed a standardized and holistic approach to the treatment of infants suffering from withdrawal created by maternal opiate exposure. Saunders serves as a board member for Tennessee Alliance for Drug Endangered Children and Tennessee Recovery Coalition, Advisory Board for the Tennessee Chronic Pain Guidelines, Scientific Advisory Board member for Gravity Diagnostics, a member of the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care and co-chair of the Tennessee Judicial Opioid Initiative. She also serves on the Advisory Board for the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

Best Practice Showcase


Dr. Sharon K. Davis, clinical assistant professor, UT Knoxville College of Nursing

Sharon K. Davis is a clinical assistant professor in the University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Nursing. She has served as a board-certified women’s health nurse practitioner for more than 30 years before transitioning to academia in 2010. Dr. Davis has a wide range of experience in evidenced-based practice and project implementation. Currently, Dr. Davis is a member of the Knox County Board of Health, a member on the Metro Drug Coalition’s Board of Directors and an interdisciplinary team member of the Knox County Prescription Pain Abuse Coalition working with legislators to reduce drug diversion and substance use disorders as well as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. As part of a Metro Drug Coalition interdisciplinary team, Dr. Davis has helped present the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) training to local healthcare providers. She is the project director of a $200,000 one -year HRSA planning grant. As a result of the work done on this grant covering ten rural counties, the Rural Counties Opioid Response Program – East Tennessee Consortium (RCORP-ETC) has been developed and continues to grow.


Justin Crowe, extension specialist, UT Institute of Agriculture

Justin Crowe currently serves as an extension specialist in Knoxville for the UT Institue of Agriculture. He previously served as a 4-H agent in Nashville. Crowe then joined the state staff in Knoxville in 2008. He leads events such as 4-H Congress and 4-H Roundup, and is especially involved in service-learning projects for 4-H youth. Crowe also serves on the faculty of UT Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. He recently used funds from the award to travel to Texas to learn more about that state’s 4-H organization.


Karen Derefinko, assistant professor of preventative medicine, UT Health Science Center

Karen J. Derefinko is an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. She is a clinical psychologist with experience in developing and disseminating substance use intervention programs and has published numerous peer-reviewed publications on pharmacological and behavioral treatment evaluation. Derefinko has completed four studies of prevention and intervention programs for opioid use and opioid use disorder in rural and urban settings. She has recently received funding to conduct a large trial that explores the efficacy of two different forms of adherence intervention for those entering buprenorphine-naloxone treatment. In addition to her work at UT Health Science Center, Derefinko has served as the director of the National Research Center for The Addiction Medicine Foundation from 2017-2019, leading research efforts at understanding the impact of training physicians in Addiction Medicine practices across North America.


Dr. Jerry Jones, Jr., assistant professor and division chief for Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine, UT Health Science Center

Dr. Jerry Jones, Jr. is an assistant professor and division chief for Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. He is also the director of the Acute Pain Service at Regional One Health. Dr. Jones serves on the Committee on Regional Anesthesia for the American Society of Anesthesiology and the Newsletter Committee for the American Society of Regional Anesthesia. He has research interests in the areas of innovative regional anesthesia/analgesia techniques and applications, multimodal analgesia and simulation training. He has also recently patented a product in the field of regional anesthesia and ultrasound. He is a strong and enthusiastic advocate for improving patient care by minimizing opioid exposure and optimizing acute post-surgical and post-traumatic pain control with ultrasound-guided continuous peripheral nerve blocks and multimodal analgesia. Dr. Jones has trained hundreds of practicing physicians and student trainees on regional anesthesia, ultrasound techniques and patient management and has helped to establish numerous successful acute pain services across the country.


Shandra Forrest-Bank

Shandra Forrest-Bank is an associate professor in the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and the director of the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (UT SWORPS). She has an extensive background as a clinician and administrator at Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS), the community-based addiction treatment programs of the University of Colorado Health Science Center. Most of the clients who received services at ARTS adult outpatient clinic were treated with methadone maintenance, giving Forrest-Bank the opportunity to work with hundreds of people who were struggling with problematic use of opioids and other drugs and alcohol. She later was the associate director of adolescent outpatient programs. These experiences led to her research interests in the etiology and prevention of substance use and delinquency. She is especially concerned for youth who have already developed some problems by adolescence and enter the transition to adulthood at a disadvantage. Much of her research has examined subtle forms of discrimination as a risk factor. Her teaching expertise is in direct clinical interventions, research methods and teaching pedagogy, and she has taught courses in the Masters of social work, Doctor of social work and PhD programs.


Meet our planning committee