Stand in the Gap grows to help tri-state residents

Published 2:30 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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By Jordan Brooks

Middlesboro News

For the past 12 years, “Stand in the Gap” has developed from an event held on one Sunday to an organization dedicated to helping those struggling with addiction in the tri-state area.

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Stand in the Gap Coalition is a 501(c)(3) faith-based organization that was founded in 2010 in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. Its origin came about when a group of concerned citizens came together after viewing a documentary, “An Appalachian Dawn”, a true documentary about how by taking a stand and praying, made a difference in Clay County.

After planning and praying, Director of Stand in the Gap Hazel Spurlock says many people in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia met on Nov. 6, 2011 to take a stand against what is now known as the opiate and meth epidemic.

SIGCOs main purpose is that through prayer, communication, education, and dedicated volunteers, seeks to remedy the addiction to harmful substances that are plaguing our communities in the Tri-state area.

Today, the spirit of SIGCO remains alive through the efforts of a core group of volunteers, donated resources, and grants from the TN Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. SIGCO is designated the “Drug Awareness and Prevention (DAP) Coalition” for Claiborne County, by the Tennessee MHSAS and through resolution of the Claiborne County Commissioners since 2018.

SIGCO operates with the understanding that prevention is the best answer to stopping addiction and the devastation that comes with it.

“Prevention products are provided free to the public by Stand in the Gap,” said Spurlock. “Some of the prevention assistance SIGCO provides include saliva based drug testing kits, addiction resource information, prevention education materials on substance use, prescription medication metal security lock boxes for in home use, halfway homes, rehabilitation facilities locator information, transportation, along with a weekly meeting with those incarcerated at the Claiborne County Justice Center.”

An additional service SIGCO provides is help with quitting vaping. The Helen Ross McNabb mental health mobile unit is available onsite at the SIGCO parking lot each Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for mental health and substance use assistance and provides this service free. By texting “DITCH VAPE” to 88709, a free and anonymous 24/7 texting service, those who reach out can receive information on how to quit.

Some other recent services that SIGCO provides through local court systems is a Substance Abuse and Addictive Processes training for adults who are cited for misdemeanor infractions of the law and is voluntary in lieu of stiffer fines and penalties. A juvenile SAAP training is provided for students who have been cited for “on campus” infractions resulting in a Claiborne County Juvenile Court appearance. This juvenile SAAP training is voluntary for the student, and their guardian is also required to attend the juvenile training.

Other DAP trainings include hunter safety courses, partnerships with others for activities like back-to-school backpack giveaways, different summer school, and in school health class trainings on harmful substance misuse. Understanding the importance of prevention, Spurlock says SIGCO has established a Lincoln Memorial University Campus Prevention and Awareness Board of faculty members and is working towards establishing a Student Campus Prevention and Awareness Council as well.

SIGCO provides student training and prevention materials throughout Claiborne County and the tri-state area including a recent prevention awareness training at Camp LMU which was their first summer camp for pre K-8th grade students. SIGCO is also looking to recruit for a SIGCO youth coalition.

SIGCO is starting a new informational campaign in which they plan on working on correcting misinformation surrounding drugs and drug abuse and misuse and correcting this misinformation with facts, according to Spurlock.

This campaign will include a monthly column with the Claiborne Progress and Middlesboro News, called “Dear SIGCO.” Questions, comments, concerns on substance misuse and abuse can be submitted, and will be answered with truth and facts.

SIGCO is currently holding a weekly Support, Transition, and Recovery Training group meeting each Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m at the SIGCO facility. This is an open meeting for those seeking support in recovery transitions in a safe and voluntary environment.

Spurlock says SIGCO holds a monthly informational meeting that is open to the public, on the second Monday of each month at noon at their New Tazewell location at 325 Straight Creek Road.