MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The fight against addiction is becoming more critical as overdoses rise in Shelby County.
Monday, the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee received state funding for additional anti-drug coalitions across the state.
“Narcan saved my life several times in Memphis,” said Alisha Shackelford, who lives in Southaven. “Also I’ve taken a lot of people in fire stations throughout the Memphis area and they saved their life.”
Shackelford knows first-hand the dangers of drug addiction.
She said she got hooked on heroin and fentanyl after previously hanging out with the wrong people and credits her faith with getting her through her battle.
“God’s opened doors for me that once were shut and gave me eyes to see and ears to hear what really matters in this life and that’s family, friends.”
Shackelford’s part of an intensive outpatient program and now she’s helping others.
“God’s put me in different places to help different people whatever they’re battling whether it be from addiction, alcoholism, emotional instability,” she shared.
Half a million dollars in funding by the state to form at least 8 anti-drug coalitions across Tennessee will go toward primary prevention like naloxone training.
“It allows opportunities for people, for an outlet, for people to get off the street out of addiction,” said Shackelford. “Whatever has them in bondage.”
“We are hoping to form more of these coalitions throughout the state that are made up of young people and teens who want to see their schools and communities drug-free,” said Brian Sullivan, an executive board member with Prevention Alliance of Tennessee. “So this is a glimmer of hope in a very dark time.”
There’s an uptick in opioid overdoses among black men in Shelby County. In 2020, they represented 37% of opioid-related emergency department visits and 42% so far this year.
“Just in Shelby County alone, we’ve lost 455 people to overdose deaths, of those 130 of them were in the 30-39-year-old age range,” said Sullivan.
Meanwhile, Shackelford’s advice to others battling addiction is to not give up.
“There’s always hope,” she said. “As long as there’s a breath inside of you, there’s always hope.”
Anyone who wants to begin an anti-drug coalition in Tennessee can submit an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is on December 17 before midnight. Application guidelines can be found here.