When substance abuse and non-medical use of prescription drugs emerged as a "threat to the health of the public" in Appalachia in recent years, it became a proven health disparity. East Tennessee State University took a leadership role in the region to coordinate and promote dialog about this emerging concern. In 2005 the ETSU Office of Rural and Community Health and Community Partnerships responded to initial funding from the Southeast Public Health Training Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to develop a plan to address a methamphetamine crisis.
Since that time, the office has completed the following activities and products:
- The invitational workshop in August 2005 that generated a research questions and an overview of the problem as a regional health threat, particularly related to methamphetamine use.
- A regional invitational conference on substance abuse in March 2006 with 26 teams of community stakeholder groups completing capacity-building activities and the award of community challenge grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)
- Research debriefing in June 2006 with regional experts that created a new community definition of substance abuse; a model for evaluating community action, and research themes and questions.
Report and Manual of Best Practices from the Sharing Best Practices: A Partner Approach to Substance Abuse conference, July, 2009, sponsored by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, featuring grantees from the ARC's first round of competitive substance abuse grants.
- Collaboration with the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center on an Analysis of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Appalachia
- Over 60 capacity-building grants to economically distressed Appalachian counties for prevention of substance use and increasing capacity-building activities for local coalitions.
- Other conference presentations, publications, and inter disciplinary collaborations.
Research into substance abuse in Appalachia continues with evaluation of causal effects, development of evidence-based prevention strategies, service to community coalitions, and collaborative efforts with the Coalition on Appalachian Substance Abuse Policy and the East Tennessee State University.