Kingsport Times News - United Way initiative tackles drug education, prevention

KINGSPORT — Nearly 20 million adults reported battling a drug addiction in 2017, according to a national survey, with the cost of lost productivity, healthcare issues and crime-related expenses topping $740 billion.

Tennessee is not immune to the problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2017 there were nearly 1,300 overdose deaths involving opioids in the Volunteer State — a rate higher than the national average of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Drug abuse and addiction is an issue facing millions of Americans, some of whom live in our area. They may be your coworkers, your friends or your family. It may be you.


The United Way of Greater Kingsport recently announced the formation of a new initiative that will focus on drug education and prevention, community awareness, and stigma reduction, while also working toward building resiliency in both children and adults through parenting programs.

The new initiative is called AveNew, a collaborative effort between the United Way and other community representatives and stakeholders. The United Way will serve as the backbone of the organization, which will be led by East Tennessee native Joy Shoun.

Shoun, who came to the United Way in 2018 as the drug abuse initiatives manager, spent 15 years with the Elizabethton Police Department, rising to the rank of captain. Shoun was the commander of the Criminal Investigations Division and Narcotics Unit from 2012-2017.


AveNew is collaborating with a number of community partners, including local government, education, mental health, law enforcement and the judicial system, no-profits, business and workforce development, medical professionals, anti-drug coalitions, recovery, and the faith-based community.

“One of the biggest needs in our community is the drug use crisis and the negative impact it has on individuals, families and the workforce in our region,” Shoun said. “We recognize that this is a complex issue. One that requires a collective response from our community. We aim to reduce the stigma in order to remove barriers to recovery, support prevention efforts and connect people to existing services throughout our region.”

AveNew will also have the opportunity to provide financial assistance to community organizations that provide programs or plan to start initiatives in its key focus areas. An organization or agency that is interested in obtaining funding through AveNew must complete and submit an AveNew grant application.

Organizations interested in applying for funding should contact Shoun via email ( for more information. The deadline to submit a grant application is Aug. 1, 2019. For more information about AveNew, visit


For the full article written by Matthew Lane of Kingsport Times News, click here.