East Tennessee State University

Robert Pack

East Tennessee State University, College of Public Health
Professor and Associate Dean

Robert Pack serves as professor of community and behavioral health, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University, and director of the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment. The Center grew out of a university and community collaborative formed in 2012 to address the regional problem of prescription opioid abuse. At least 13 funded projects and dozens of other academic products have  grown out of the working group. 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 non-profit opioid treatment program in the Northeast Tennessee region. The clinic, called Overmountain Recovery, is the only clinic in the region that offers both methadone and buprenorphine maintenance therapy, along with counseling, for opioid use disorder. Pack was PI of the NIH/NIDA-funded Diversity Promoting Institutions Drug Abuse Research Program at ETSU, the research component of which is a five-year set of three studies titled Inter-professional communication to prevent prescription drug abuse and misuse. He was trained in health education/health promotion at the UAB School of Public Health and is experienced in designing, running and disseminating theory-based intervention studies. In 2014, he completed the NIH- funded Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health  (TIDIRH, Boston, 2014).

Helen Ross McNabb Center

Jerry Vagnier

Helen Ross McNabb Center

Jerry Vagnier, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) earned a MSSW from the University of Tennessee in 1988 and received his BA in psychology from Maryville College in 1985. Vagnier joined the Helen Ross McNabb Center’s staff in 1988 as a children and youth therapist. He served in a number of clinical management positions before moving into administrative roles at the Center. He led a statewide coalition in 2016 to advance a request for state funding to address the opioid crisis in Tennessee. Initially a $6 million allocation by Governor Haslam parlayed into nearly $24 million in state and federal funds to address the statewide crisis. Currently Vagnier serves a Legislative Co-chair for the Tennessee Alcohol and other Drug Association and President of the Tennessee Mental Health Association both statewide trade associations.


Stephen Loyd

Stephen Loyd, M.D. has been in long-term recovery from substance use disorder secondary to prescription pain killers since July 2004. He serves as the medical Director for JourneyPure at the River in Murfreesboro and as the assistant Medical Director at The Next Door in downtown Nashville. Both places provide treatment services for people suffering from substance use disorder. Loyd has been an expert witness for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States, the United States Attorney, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Internal Revenue and the Commonwealth’s Attorney of both Virginia and Kentucky in drug cases against doctors for improperly prescribing pain medication. Loyd has worked in drug recovery courts in Tennessee for ten years. He previously served as Medical Director and Assistant Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and remains committed to advocating for expanded treatment options for people suffering from substance use disorder.

Metro Drug Coalition

Karen Pershing

Metro Drug Coalition, Inc.
Executive Director

Karen Pershing has served as the executive director of the Metro Drug Coalition (MDC) since May 2010. The coalition is a substance abuse prevention organization serving Knoxville and Knox County since 1986. Efforts around the opioid crisis have been community trainings, education and awareness campaigns, as well as the formation of the state-recognized Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force. The task force has been instrumental in bringing together diverse leaders in the community to address the crisis through education, policy and systems change. Several state laws have been initiated and passed, including pain management clinic regulations. This group also was instrumental in working with Sen. Lamar Alexander to address federal systemic challenges. In 2015, the Born Drug-Free Tennessee awareness and educational campaign was launched to reduce the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns in East Tennessee. As a result, Knox County has shown a 33 percent decline. MDC is seen as a leader, both locally and at the state level in providing guidance around community solutions needed to address not only opioid use disorders, but attack the root causes leading to the development of a substance use disorder. MDC uses a coalition/collaborative approach in implementing evidence-based population level strategies.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Marti Head

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Director of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences

Marti Head joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory in February 2018 as the director of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences after 20 years as a leader in R&D at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. In her current role, she is able to partner widely to strengthen the relationship with UT academic and health science center campuses and to even more broadly apply ORNL capabilities for measurable, positive impact on health outcomes of relevance to Tennessee and the Appalachian region.

State of Tennessee

Mitchell L. Mutter

State of Tennessee Department of Health
Medical Director for Special Projects

Mitchell L. Mutter serves as the special projects medical director for the state of Tennessee. During his time there, he has upheld TCA 63-1-401, which requires the creation and revision of the Chronic Pain Guidelines. This document was created by a panel; comprised of 45 experts, with Mutter facilitating. He also has established an educational symposia around the state of Tennessee. During these events, he and his team discuss MME and prescription trends, overdose deaths/near misses and neonatal abstinence syndrome. An analysis of addiction, current issues, pain clinic legislation and rules, and a dialogue regarding the use of the CSMD (PDMP) also were key components. This course also satisfies the state of Tennessee’s Board of Medical Examiners and TN Board of Osteopathic Examination continuing medical education requirement of two hours every two years of controlled substances prescribing. Mutter often collaborates with law enforcement, the CSMD team and Board of Investigations and Office of General Council. This team is critical to addressing substance use abuse in Tennessee.

Tennessee Judiciary

Duane Slone

Tennessee Judiciary
Circuit Court Judge

Duane Slone, a former drug trafficking prosecutor, was first elected to the 4th Judicial District Circuit Court in 1998. In 2009, he co-founded his judicial district’s Drug Recovery Court. He serves as chairman of the Tennessee and 8 State Regional Judicial Opioid Initiatives and is a member of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force. He also serves as chairman of the Tennessee Judicial Conference Problem Solving Court Committee, is a board member of the Tennessee Association of Recovery Court Professionals and is a contributor to the SAMHSA Advisory Committee on Women.  Addressing the opioid-driven addiction crisis by meeting people where they are, as far upstream as possible, Slone has been instrumental in implementing nationally recognized low cost, highly effective, easily replicable and scalable solutions including the Tennessee Department of Health’s Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Primary Prevention Initiative and the Tennessee Recovery Oriented Compliance Strategy TN ROCS. Additionally, he is co-founder and board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dumplin Valley.

University of Tennessee

Marie Chisholm-Burns

UT Health Science Center, College of Pharmacy
Dean and Professor

Marie Chisholm-Burns serves as dean and professor of the College of Pharmacy and professor of surgery in the College of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center. She has been involved in educating colleagues, student pharmacists and the general public about illicit and non-illicit drug use, misuse and abuse for several years. She is a prolific scholar, with more than 325 publications and $15.8 million in grant funding. She has published in both the professional literature and print media within the state of Tennessee. Under her leadership as dean of the College of Pharmacy, she and her team have developed programs concerning the opioid crisis.  Those programs include educating the general public and health care professionals on risk mitigation practices (RMP), community intervention, healthcare professional intervention and participation in training programs and continuing education programs regarding appropriate pain management as well as overall overdose prevention and proper administration of naloxone.


Justin Crowe

UT Extension
Extension 4-H Specialist

Justin Crowe serves Tennessee as an Extension 4-H Specialist. During his 16-year career, Crowe has given leadership to several 4-H healthy living programs, including nutrition education and substance abuse prevention education. The 4-H Health Rocks! program, a signature program focused on substance abuse prevention education, addresses tobacco, alcohol and the opioid epidemic. His other areas of focus include service learning and teen leadership.


Mayanne Cunningham

UT Knoxville, College of Social Work, Office of Research and Public Service
Associate Director

Mayanne Cunningham serves as the associate director of the UT College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service. She has over 35 years of professional experience assisting state and local agencies measuring program outcomes, evaluating programs and assessing service needs to improve the lives of the most vulnerable families and children across the Southeast. She has been the principal investigator on more than 200 research and evaluation studies for state and local agencies, including statewide survey projects, program evaluation studies, training evaluation projects, test development and needs assessment studies. Her skills include project management, research design, instrument design, data analysis, report preparation and presentation, staff supervision, grant proposal writing and contract negotiation. She earned master’s degrees in both statistics and rural sociology from UT Knoxville.


Sharon Keck Davis

UT Knoxville, College of Nursing
Clinical Assistant Professor   

Sharon Keck Davis, a board certified women’s health nurse practitioner, practiced more than 30 years before transitioning to academia in 2010. Her doctoral work focused on educating OB providers on the process of motivational interviewing while caring for pregnant women with substance use disorder. Davis is a member of the Knox County Board of Health, the Metro Drug Coalition’s Board of Directors and the Knox County Prescription Pain Abuse Coalition. Her scholarly focus is educating providers about the science of addiction and the reduction of stigma, which is a known barrier to care. She is the project director of a one-year HRSA grant Rural Counties Opioid Response Planning. This grant is partnering an interdisciplinary team from UT with members from 10 rural counties to strategically plan a response to the opioid epidemic incorporating prevention, treatment and recovery support.


Shannon Deal

UT Martin, Student Health and Counseling Services
Director and Nurse Practitioner 

As director of the UT Martin Student Health and Counseling Services, Shannon Deal is responsible for compliance with ethical codes and state/federal laws; developing and implementing departmental policies/guidelines (e.g. urine drug testing); maintaining collaborative partnerships with community organizations (e.g. Weakley County Prevention Coalition); providing guidance to VCSA; developing and implementing campus awareness and prevention programs; and ensuring SHCS staff has access to continuing education. As a health care provider, she participates in continuing education; identifies high-risk patients by using risk-assessment tools and prescription drug monitoring programs; refers for appropriate treatment of addiction; and delivers patient education.


Alex Dopico

UT Health Science Center, College of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology
University Distinguished Professor and Chair 

Alex Dopico’s decades-long research on alcohol use disorders (AUD) addresses mechanisms that mediate AUD and co-substance abuse. As chair of the UTHSC Department of Pharmacology, Dopico can facilitate means for discovery on most aspects of substance addiction. He also serves in the NIAAA Scientific Council, which advices on national research policies on alcoholism and co-morbidities, including opioid addiction (one of every three NIAAA meetings is shared with NIDA). National data show that by 2015, while opioid prescriptions were diminishing, opioid-induced deaths still increased (www.cdc.gov). Remarkably, opioid-related deaths are often associated with alcohol intake. Moreover, people who develop alcohol use disorders (AUD) are nearly twice as likely to develop opioid use disorder (www.niaaa.nih.gov).


Kimberly Eck

UT Knoxville
Assistant Vice Chancellor of research development

Kimberly Eck joined UT Knoxville in 2016 and currently serves as the assistant vice chancellor of research development. She previously served as director of research development. In her role as assistant vice chancellor, she and her team support research, scholarship and the creative art by providing proposal development services, sharing information on funders, building research capacity and forming new collaborations through innovative programming. Her career in research development began in 2009 working for a small consulting firm. She went on to work for the Research Foundation for the State University of New York and Geisinger Health System in a similar capacity. She earned a doctorate in epidemiology and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Research Development Professionals. She has an appointment as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Public Health at the UT Knoxville.


Shandra Forrest-Bank

UT Knoxville, College of Social Work, Office of Research and Public Service
Director, Associate Professor

Shandra Forrest-Bank is a faculty member in the College of Social Work and the Director of the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS). SWORPS provides technical assistance for all aspects of research and program evaluation and is currently evaluating two HRSA planning grants focused on addressing opioid dependence in rural Tennessee. Forrest-Bank has extensive practice experience in addiction treatment, with expertise in opioid dependence. Her scholarship focuses on risk and protective factors for substance abuse and prevention through positive youth development: emphasizing the connection between adverse childhood experiences and opioid dependence, promoting resilience through protective influences, reducing stigma, and making opioid replacement maintenance available. The College of Social Work trains much of the professional workforce in Tennessee providing services to people with opioid dependence and those at highest risk. The college is currently revamping its curriculum to ensure students are prepared to recognize and treat opioid dependence.


Chris “Sissie” Hadjiharalambous

UT Knoxville, College of Social Work, Office of Research and Public Service
Associate Director, Program Evaluation

Chris “Sissie” Hadjiharalambous serves as lead evaluator for two federally funded projects aiming to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with opioid overdoses in East Tennessee. The first project, RCORP for East Tennessee, is a consortium co-led by UT Knoxville and community members representing 10 rural counties identified by the CDC as being at risk for HIV and Hepatitis C infections due to injection drug use. The second, TennSCORE, is a consortium co-led by Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services and county-specific workgroups representing key stakeholders from two target counties, Campbell and Scott. The goal of both consortia is to engage healthcare, criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, child welfare and other key stakeholders in local communities for the purpose of developing a strategic plan that addresses improved access to prevention and behavioral health/substance use disorder treatment and recovery.


Linda Hill

UT Chattanooga, School of Nursing
Professor and Coordinator Nurse Anesthesia Concentration

Linda Hill was appointed to serve on Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Commission on Pain and Addiction Medicine Education in 2018.  This 19-member Commission was an integral part of the TN Together plan to end the opioid epidemic in Tennessee. The Commission’s charge was to develop competencies for Tennessee’s health professional training programs to address proper treatment for acute and chronic pain, safe and effective prescribing practices, and proper diagnoses and treatment for individuals abusing or misusing controlled substances. The Commission developed 12 core competencies that were supported by evidence-based pain and addiction management. These are available for adoption by health professional educational institutions in Tennessee for current and future curricula. It is believed these competencies will contribute to better preparation in the knowledge and effectiveness of Tennessee’s future healthcare providers.


Jenny Holcombe

UT Chattanooga

Jenny Holcombe’s role in the opioid crisis is that of a researcher, evaluator and statistician. She currently serves as a co-PI for a collaborative UTC/UTCCOM/Erlanger grant to examine EMS attitudes related to Narcan use and to map areas in the region at highest risk for opioid use/overdose. Results from this study will offer feasibility data for a future large-scale grant proposal with similar aims.


Sadie Hutson

UT Knoxville College of Nursing
Associate Professor and Assistant Dean, Graduate Programs

As a women’s health nurse practitioner and researcher with a focus on investigating the psychosocial consequences of living with HIV, Sadie Hutson has been a part of several projects that address the substance use disorder crisis in Appalachian Tennessee. She is currently a co-investigator on a funded HRSA grant led by Sharon Davis in the UT Knoxville College of Nursing. In this project, she is working with a community co-lead and diverse community workgroup to collaboratively design and implement a four-part training curriculum aimed at primary care physicians and advanced practice nurses to build treatment capacity, decrease provider stigma associated with opioid use disorders (OUDs) and improve knowledge, attitudes and skills related to OUDs with the goal of forming a Project ECHO hub in East Tennessee.


Maha Krishnamurthy

UT Research Foundation, Inc.
Vice President

As vice president of the UT Research Foundation, Maha Krishnamurthy manages the commercialization of UT’s innovations and assists in bringing them to market. Hospitals face a growing number of patients with a history of IV drug use. They tend to keep such patients at their facility for long periods of time out of fear that the patient may tamper with the IV line and get an infection, resulting in a tremendous cost to the hospital. Krishnamurthy collaborated with faculty members from TCE and UT Medical Center on an intravenous line tamper evidence device (TEL Boxx) to save hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars and increase patient safety. She also developed and facilitated a strategy to work with other hospitals around the country that are facing the same issue. The device is currently being used in four hospitals across the country.


Reinhold Mann

UT Chattanooga
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research

Reinhold Mann was appointed deputy vice chancellor for research at UT Chattanooga in July 2018. In this role, he works with the vice chancellor for research on strengthening collaborations with Chattanooga and the region, most recently with the newly formed Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative (CSCC). In support of planning for how UT can impact the opioid crisis, he is looking forward to making contributions including baselining status and trends in opioid addiction in the South East Tennessee region; and representing the collective capabilities and assets of the CSCC to contribute to the discussion of how UT and partners can address this crisis effectively.


Rick Scarbrough

UT Institute for Public Service, Law Enforcement Innovation Center
Executive Director

Rick Scarbrough has served as executive director of the UT Institute for Public Service Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC) since August 2018. His law enforcement background spans 30 years and involves community education and outreach. He became a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) instructor in 1990—teaching classes to 2,500 students throughout Anderson County. In 2002, he was appointed chief of police for the City of Clinton, a position he held for 16 years. In that role, he also served as a board member of the 7th Judicial Drug Task Force, was a board member for the International Association of Chiefs of Police and an executive board member of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.


Terry Stevens

UT College of Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Pharmacist, D.Ph., FSVHP

Terry Stevens has worked as a pharmacist at the UT Veterinary Teaching Hospital for more than 14 years. He served as a member of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Commission for Opioid Addiction and Education and is on the board of directors for the Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition. He has a practice in human pharmacy as well as veterinary pharmacy and has given—and had his 4th year pharmacy students give—anti-drug talks to various groups for more than 5 years.


Lisa Washburn

UT Extension
Community Health Associate Professor 

In her work as a community health specialist and associate professor with UT Extension, Lisa Washburn provides leadership and support for health outreach initiatives conducted through a network of county Extension professionals with statewide reach. Locally implemented programs are determined by community-identified needs and reach both youth and adult Tennesseans. One aspect of her job is to look at upstream approaches to address these local issues, identify strategies to meet emerging needs and provide training and resources for Extension professionals. Another part of her job is to build relationships at the state level to support broad initiatives, which ideally feed into local work, and foster collaboration with other organizations. Washburn’s role in solving this crisis is to secure resources and equip Extension professionals, leaders and volunteers to engage their communities to identify and implement solutions of their own, particularly in rural areas.


James Wheeler

UT Health Science Center, College of Pharmacy
Director of Continuing Professional Development

As director of continuing education and professional development for the UT Health Science Center College of Pharmacy, James Wheeler coordinates continuing education activities for medical professionals in Tennessee and the surrounding region. His office designs and delivers education on a variety of topics, including prescription drug abuse, substance use disorder and appropriate pain management. Specific to the opioid crisis, Wheeler and his colleagues have provided continuing education activities on naloxone administration, utilizing the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database and ensuring adherence to the requirements of the Tennessee Together Act. As a faculty member, he lectures on pain management therapeutics in the Colleges of Pharmacy and Nursing. In 2016, he authored an online module for pharmacists titled Legal Obligations and Implications of Prescription Opioid Abuse with more than 5,000 participants completing the module.


Robert W. Williams

UT Health Science Center
Governor’s Chair and Professor

Rob Williams serves as the UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair in genetics and genomics at the UT Health Science Center. His work focuses on the genetics of substance use disorders with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). He and his group are collaborating with many teams to reduce the interval between discovery and therapeutic intervention. Much of his work involves animal models of precision medicine, but he also is collaborating on opiate addiction susceptibility and neonatal abstinence syndrome in humans.


University of Tennessee Medical Center

Craig Towers, M.D., FACOG

UT Medical Center High Risk Obstetrical Group
Vice Chair, Department of OB/GYN

Craig Towers has been intricately involved in the opioid use disorder crisis, especially as it has pertained to pregnant women. He has performed a large landmark study that showed that detoxification during pregnancy is not harmful, and two systematic reviews since that time have come to the same conclusion. He also has shown that long-term exposure to opiate drugs of all kinds can lead to a smaller head size in the newborn at the time of delivery.