JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL)– A group in the Tri-Cities is making it a priority to combat the drug abuse epidemic in our region.

A $60,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services is helping a relatively new organization spread its substance abuse prevention efforts throughout Carter County.

Angela Hagaman, program director of the Diversity-promoting Institutions Drug Abuse Research Program at East Tennessee State University, came to the university after previously working for a drug-prevention coalition.

Drug prevention coalitions aim to employ evidence-based strategies to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse.

Hagaman said she noticed there was no substance abuse prevention coalition in Carter County.

“There was a huge gap and need,” she said.

Hagaman along with ETSU doctoral students, worked for weeks and were able to secure the grant to hire a coordinator to staff the center, located on 546 E. Elk Ave., in Elizabethon.

“We wrote a strong proposal and we were funded,” said Hagaman.  “So now we can pay someone to do this drug prevention work in Carter County.”

The funding will help the CCDP stretch its efforts to not only address prescription drug abuse, but also tobacco and underage and binge drinking prevention.

Coalition staff will provide training for alcohol vendors and servers to reduce the number of failed alcohol compliance checks in Carter County. “Forty-four percent of surveyed outlets failed during the most recent round of compliance checks,” Hagaman noted.

Additionally, the donated office space will host a number of different prevention programs for parents, and the youth in the area.

Cathy Shoun is the owner of The Dressing Room boutique in downtown Elizabethton. She said she is happy to see the drug coalition in the heart of downtown.

“This is a wonderful place,” she said pointing to the center.  “It is right here in our downtown area…and it is good to see what they can do to help the drug situation.”

Hagaman said the coalition did not start with the grant. It was the Carter County community that made it all possible.

“Community members have pitched it, and made donations, and so now to have this grant is like having the icing on the cake,” said Hagaman. “But it didn’t start with funding; it started with a grassroots community effort….and that makes it more powerful.”Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.