Take a Proactive Role in Preventing Pill Abuse

May 24, 2012

By Heather Sutton, Metropolitan Drug Commission

Prescription drug abuse is a problem that exists throughout the fabric of our community. It’s the person who lives down the street, someone you work with or perhaps your parent or child. It crosses all race, gender and socioeconomic boundaries, and it doesn’t discriminate based on age or education.

In the past decade, pill addiction has truly reached epidemic proportions. Today, prescription drugs are second only to marijuana among drugs taken to get high. The Centers for Disease Control report 12 million Americans have used prescriptions non-medically at least once in their lifetime.

Overdose fatalities have increased threefold since 1990. It is now the second leading cause of accidental death in America, just behind motor vehicle crashes. Prescription drugs have significantly contributed to this trend, and East Tennessee has been particularly impacted. Statistics show the Appalachian region has one of the highest overdose rates in the entire nation.

This isn’t just an adult problem. About one in five high school students admit to abusing a prescription medication, according to the 2011 Knox County Youth Risk Behavior Survey. That’s nearly a 100 percent increase since 2007.

There is no doubt. Prescription drug abuse is the one of the greatest threats to our community’s well-being. People often believe that prescriptions are safer to abuse than illicit drugs because they are legal and prescribed by a doctor. Plus, prescriptions are easily accessible in home medicine cabinets. Many people are unaware of their highly addictive nature and dangerous side effects.

To help combat the problem, we urge the community to dispose of their prescriptions properly. Safe medication disposal can help keep medications out of the water supply and away from children and abusers.

Following these three simple steps can help safeguard your medications from abuse:

  1. Monitor your prescriptions carefully. Note the number of pills in each bottle and keep track of your refills. If your child is given medications by a doctor, be sure to regulate its usage.
  2. Secure your prescriptions in a locked cabinet inaccessible by your kids. Ask friends and family members with whom your child visits to do the same.
  3. Dispose of old or unused prescriptions, removing all identifying labels. Put them in a sandwich bag to prevent leakage. Also, be mindful of the environment and don’t flush pills down the toilet or drain unless instructed to do so.

Medication take-backs have proven extremely successful locally. Since 2008, nearly 5,000 pounds of pills have been collected and destroyed in Knox County alone. That’s more than 2.4 million pills that will not end up in our water system or in the hands of abusers. Medication take-back events are hosted four to five times a year in locations throughout Knoxville.

The next event will be held on June 9 at the West Hills Walgreens across from West Town Mall from 10 AM-2 PM. If you can’t make it out next month, you can drop off your unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs anytime at the Knoxville Police Department’s Safety Building, no questions asked. KPD maintains a secure collection bin inside the lobby.

We hope to see everyone there! For more information about prescription drugs or to learn more about drug take-backs, visit metrodrug.org or medicationcollection.org.


Together We Can Make A Difference

March 13, 2012

With United Way of Greater Knoxville’s support, the Therapeutic Preschool at Helen Ross McNabb Center continues to thrive and assist at-risk children with the building blocks they need.

The Therapeutic Preschool is a program providing comprehensive assessment and treatment services to abused and neglected preschool children, ages three to six, and their families.

The program goals are to reduce the risk of ongoing abuse, overcome developmental delays, restructure family and home environments, and to improve parental child-rearing skills.

Together, we can make a difference.


Don’t Be A Victim: Take Steps to Protect Your Identity

February 29, 2012

We often hear the term identity theft on the news or when salesmen call to offer us credit protection services.  But what exactly is identity theft and what do we need to know to protect it?  Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as name, credit card, or social security number without permission to commit fraud or other crimes.  The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans are identity theft victims each year.  Identity theft can damage your credit report, which can result in lost job opportunities or the inability to access credit for purchases such as a home or car.

Identity thieves can get new credit cards, use credit limits on existing credit cards, rent an apartment, or even pay utility deposits using your information.  Identity theft can also be as simple as an unexplained charge on your credit card statement or a debit from your checking account that you don’t recall making or have a receipt for.  Many victims of identity theft don’t recognize small transactions as symptoms of a larger problem. In fact, many victims do not realize their identity has been stolen until months, or even years after the theft. And once identified, consumers will invest time and money to restore their good name. The average out-of-pocket expense for consumers facing identity fraud was $631 per incident in 2010, up from $387 the prior year.

Many of us think of high tech hacking when we think of identity theft.  While tossing a credit card offer, using an ATM machine, or posting a status update on your Facebook page may all seem like ordinary tasks, to an identity thief these are opportunities to steal your information and use it for their own benefit.  In fact, identity thieves regularly use methods such as going through your trash or mailbox to obtain your information.  Another sad truth is that having your identity stolen by friends and family is quite common.

We are all vulnerable to identity theft. Protecting oneself requires consumers to use caution when conducting everyday business and take swift action if they think their information has been compromised.  CredAbility suggests consumers take these steps to help safeguard their identity:

Protect your Personal Information

  • When conducting business online or over the phone, never share personal or financial information unless you have initiated contact and know who you are talking to.
  • Empty your wallet—take out credit cards that you don’t use regularly, Social Security cards or other cards that may contain your Social Security number, such as insurance cards. Once you minimize what you’re keeping in your wallet, photocopy both sides of everything and keep in a secure location for easy access in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
  • Checks – if possible, use a P.O. Box instead of your home address on checks. Never print your Social Security Number on checks. When you order checks or a new driver’s license, have them sent to the bank instead of your home.

Think Before You Post

A recent survey by Consumer Reports revealed that more than half of adult users of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace have posted risky personal information online.

  • Check your online Social Networking Account privacy settings and limit what you share with others. Remove personal contact information, birth date, city of residence, and any other personal information from public view and consider removing it altogether.
  • Do not post vacation plans, or even plans for the day—these posts can alert a potential identity thief to when you will be gone and for how long. If you want to share, wait until after you have returned.
  • Monitor your kids’ activity. If you allow your children to be part of any social network, be sure that they are following these same guidelines. 

Use Caution when Sending or Tossing Mail

  • Raising the flag on your mailbox signals identity thieves that there might be information to steal in the box. Checks provide thieves with your name, address and bank account information. Drop outgoing mail into a U.S. Mailbox or at the Post Office.
  • Shred everything, including unsolicited applications for credit cards and other loan products, and credit card receipts. If it has your personal information on it, it is always better to shred it before throwing it away.

Practice Internet Safety

  • Do not click on links in emails that ask you to “verify” personal information or passwords, even if they appear to be from your financial institution.
  • Do not save user names and passwords on your computer. Instead, enter them each time you access a site. Change passwords periodically and use strong passwords, such as those with a random combination of letters, numbers and characters) to minimize easy detection. Refrain from using birthdates, anniversaries and other easy to find numbers.
  • When shopping online, do not use debit cards or checks for purchases. Use credit cards, and be sure to look for the small lock on the bottom right hand corner of the screen or look at the url on your internet browser to ensure it begins with HTTPS//    – these indicators reflect the purchase is being made over a secure server and that your information is encrypted to protect it.
  • Keep your virus protection software up-to-date, use a secure server to access the internet, and install a firewall to prevent thieves from “logging in” to your computer.

Monitor your credit reports

Unfortunately, by the time most consumers become aware that someone has gained credit in their name, it is too late to prevent the theft. But you can minimize the damage by knowing what’s in your credit report and reviewing it regularly for changes.

Consumers can receive a free copy of their credit report every year. Request a copy of your report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling (877) 322-8228, or by mailing a request form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Even one unexplained transaction on your account could be a sign of identity theft.  Quick action can minimize the impact and reduce the amount of time and money spent repairing the damage.  If you are the victim of identity theft, take the following steps:

File a Police Report
File a report with your local police department and get a copy. You may need to submit this report to creditors and others to prove the theft.

Notify the Credit Bureaus

Contact the fraud departments of any of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file.
      TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division,

            P.O.  Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
      Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374
      Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

Once you call one credit bureau, they are required to notify the other two. Once you place the fraud alert on your file, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each. Request that only the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number appear on the report. Review the reports carefully, looking for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.

Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently

If you suspect that your accounts have been tampered with or see new accounts that may have been opened fraudulently, close them immediately. Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Be sure to document each conversation, including dates, times and who you talked to. Keep copies of all supporting documents and if you send correspondence, do so by certified mail, return receipt requested. Once you clear up your credit report, check them periodically to make sure no new activity has occurred.

When you open new accounts, use new passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). Avoid easy to crack codes such as birth dates, phone numbers, your mother’s maiden name or your house number.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them.

File a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form, which can be downloaded at: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/; or through their toll free Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.

About CredAbility
CredAbility is one of the leading nonprofit credit counseling and education agencies in the United States, serving clients in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, in both English and Spanish. In addition, we provide in-person counseling through our branch network of more than 25 offices located across the southeast.

Founded in 1964, CredAbility is a family of Consumer Credit Counseling Service agencies that includes CCCS of Greater Atlanta, CCCS of Central Florida and the Florida Gulf Coast, CCCS of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, CCCS of East Tennessee, CCCS of Central Mississippi and CCCS of Upstate South Carolina.

The nonprofit agency is accredited by the Council on Accreditation and is a member of the Better Business Bureau and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Governed by a community-based board of directors, CredAbility is funded by creditors, clients, individual donors and grants from foundations, businesses and government agencies. Service is provided 24/7 by phone at 800.251.2227 and online at www.CredAbility.org

LOCAL CONTACT:

(865) 329-8001 (office) / Daru.Burdge@CredAbility.org


The Campaign is Over!

January 31, 2012

In August of 2011 we kicked off our Annual Fundraising Campaign with the spirited and motivational words and song of Barbara Dooley, mother of the University of Tennessee football coach and United Way supporter. As the planning began, there was much concern of course about the goal. Our economy is down, joblessness is still high, and United Way was beginning a competitive grant making process.  Aware of these added fundraising challenges, our campaign chair, astute business woman, conservative planner, Pam Fansler, president of First Tennessee Bank’s East Tennessee region, guided her team and advised the board to use a different approach in goal setting this year. An ingenious multi- level approach to success was created.  Each level would be a success:   Silver, $11,500,000; gold, $11,750,000 and platinum $12,000,000!  As we progress from one level to the other the more people we can serve, the more programs we can fund, the better community we can create. On January 26 our board declared victory with a silver total of $11,621,000!!

It is amazing how many people have been involved in this rewarding work, raising funds for our community. Hundreds of individuals and many organizations joined together to bring success to this campaign.  Joining our chair to ensure fundraising success was the Campaign Cabinet.  Our 2011 chair recruited these volunteers in the spring, several months before the kickoff; they began working together at that time to prepare for this year’s campaign…completing their work only when the campaign closed. This speaks to the level of commitment our volunteer leadership demonstrated.

In August, the campaign cabinet was assigned a team of Loaned Executives who worked tirelessly beside them to meet the fundraising goal. These volunteers are community leaders who served as a circle of support for our chair. They were responsible for the majority of funds raised in employee workplace campaigns. They were our sales team!

The Branding and Messaging committee staffed by board members and community volunteers invested an abundance of creative energy and countless hours to market the campaign. Innovative projects, such as the on line auction, Pilot Pumpers, Downtown United for United Way, Give $5, Tell 5 and more contributed not only to the financial goal but to the excitement that surrounded the campaign,

Our media sponsors, Citadel (now Cumulus) Broadcasting, the Knoxville News Sentinel, WATE, WVLT, WTNZ and WBIR helped us share stories that tug at the heart…stories of those who have been the recipient of the resources provided by the funds that have been raised in this campaign…..These stories make real the work that these resources fund.

New and old strategies were used in this years’ campaign. One initiative, having a long term benefit, was the founding of the United Way of Greater Knoxville’s Women of Tocqueville initiative which is for women who are giving at the $10,000 level and above.  Forty-nine women joined this group as founding members.  In keeping with the focus of United Way, the Women of Tocqueville has chosen to mobilize resources to improve Education and Early Grade Literacy as they reach out to local Women of Influence who want to be a part of this exciting work.

The generosity of our community, and our volunteers, and the incredible leadership of our campaign chair, Pam Fansler, ensures that community agencies and their programs will be supported. Gratitude is such a small word to use to express the overwhelming appreciation of United Way for the outstanding outcome of this campaign. 

 

Rosalyn Tillman

Assistant Dean, Pellissippi State Community College, Magnolia Campus

United Way of Greater Knoxville Board Chair


We Can’t Do it Alone

January 11, 2012

Education and workforce development are so inextricably linked by their dependence upon one another, that the absence of either from the equation of socialization would leave a void of immeasurable proportions. Now this is not a novel idea, I know, but it is an important one nonetheless. Our ability as organizations and as individuals to understand this link in a way that yields more effective and productive programs is crucial as we face the mounting and every-changing problems of the 21st century.

The kernel of this idea is  at the very center of a community wide effort that is taking place between the United Way-its partners, Knox County Schools and the Chamber of Commerce. As 2012 begins we are diligently preparing to take the next step towards a broader community effort that looks to align multiple interests and goals in a more focused and strategic way. Why? The answer is twofold: 1). these values (education and workforce development/income) are central to all of the partnering agencies in some form or fashion 2).  NO ONE CAN DO IT ALONE, period. The volatility of the markets, the lack of global confidence and the scarcity of funding resources have indiscriminately effected multiple organizations in a deep and lasting way. The willingness to dialog and compromise is becoming more and more necessary as service requests are on the increase while funding resources remain stagnant.

 All that being said, as we begin this year we do so with a hope. A hope that the cancerous culture of pessimism-though real, profitable and seemingly incurable- will atrophy as it encounters the antigen of authentic joy-yes, joy: it is the privilege that we have to work with a vast network of superbly talented, compassionate and skilled people that love the work they do and love the community they support. It is the hope, the realization and the acknowledgement that we must take seriously the claims of the community that we wish to see actualized, and never take for granted the fact that we can do good now, today. It is the understanding that though times are tough not every resource is gone, not every door is closed, not every well is dry. It is with this attitude that we are pursuing the New Year.

 As we work closely with others we are looking to educate and equip, to prepare and to provide, to protect and to advocate. This charge and opportunity will require communication, collaboration and creative thinking. It will not always be easy; we won’t always get it right. But as the year begins our communal focus on education and income stability/workforce development are vital to providing an understanding for what works in our cities and communities.  We can’t do it alone.

 Caleb Fristoe
Community Engagement & Mobilization Associate


What you don’t know about United Way of Greater Knoxville…

December 20, 2011

First, and yes…we know, United Way has probably been your parent’s and grandparent’s charity of choice.  We are , indeed, a mature organization (nationally at 124 years old and 89 years old in Knox County) and the largest nonprofit in the United States with 1250 local affiliates raising over 4 billion dollars serving millions of clients through our network of partner agencies.  Here’s what you may know about United Way of Greater Knoxville…  It’s governed by an unpaid volunteer board of directors.  We raise approximately 12 million annually, of which 85% goes directly to 101 programs within 41 partner agencies  ultimately serving approx. 100,000 Knox County residents…enough to fill Neyland Stadium.  That’s about 1 in 4 of your neighbors.  

United Way focuses on the essential building blocks for a good life:  Education, Income, and Health while still covering Basic Needs.  It’s about investing donated dollars into programs that can produce a measurable result…that can move the bar and increase self-sufficiency.  As you may know volunteers make all of these grant-making decisions based on months of research annually.

Here’s another thing you may not know:  United Way of Greater Knoxville is the primary funder of the non-emergency referral line, 2-1-1.   This is a free call from the 865 area code.  You simply dial 2-1-1 and ask to be directed to a service that will help you based on your specific situation.  Try it.

United Way of Greater Knoxville manages a volunteer center and serves as a local coordinator for connecting willing volunteers to the needs of nonprofits.  Call us at 523-9131 and connect.  We also have a Nonprofit Management Center (NMC) that provides continuing education opportunities for nonprofit professionals. We hold workshops on a variety of subjects designed to help nonprofits work more effectively and efficiently.  We offer a Management Assistant Program (MAP) to local nonprofits in need of assistance in managing their day to day businesses.  UWGK will pull consultants in to help a nonprofit learn more efficient methods of operation or how to manage crises that may arise.   UWGK has ongoing relationships with youth organizations and continually engages young people in community activities.  We also coordinate “Days of Action” or “Days of Caring” for area companies that want to give back and do something “hands-on” for an agency.  Finally, the United Way building at 1301 Hannah Avenue in Knoxville is a community service center where hundreds of nonprofit groups meet at no cost.  Many nonprofits are looking for  meeting space with convenient parking and we have provided this service for 16 years at this location.   

United Way  of Greater Knoxville makes an impact in a variety of ways.  For more information go to  www.unitedwayknox.org or follow us on facebook and twitter @unitedwayknox.

Join us,

Ben Landers

President and CEO


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