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CAC AmeriCorps is developing a new 47 week national service program with a focus on regional public health issues projected to begin August of 2020.  Our Community Health Corps will be focused on engaging Americans of all ages in solving public health related challenges in a 9-county region in East Tennessee including: Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, Sevier, and Union, with an explicit focus on four core topics: healthy lifestyles, regional food insecurity, opioid / drug addiction, and providing services to help the elderly age in place.

In 2017, The Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC), engaged the board, staff, and community members in developing the document FY 2022 Strategic Plan, a 5-year plan that prioritizes efforts to increase knowledge about the extent of substance abuse in the community and its impact on clients, their families, and the larger community and to meet the needs of seniors, allowing them to maintain safe and stable independent living.  These priorities, combined with our Corps’ positioning to address food insecurity and healthy lifestyle issues through existing and prospective partners, is what has inspired CAC AmeriCorps to explore other avenues of impact in our region.

The Challenges

Healthy Lifestyles
Blue Cross Blue Shield rates Knox County and its neighboring counties from 90.2 to 91.5 on its National Health Index, about the average for the entire United States but well below the optimal health rating of 100. Cited as the most impactful conditions on the population’s health is hypertension, major depression, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, substance abuse disorder, type II diabetes, COPD, alcohol use disorder, psychotic disorder, and hyperactivity related.

CAC AmeriCorps is looking for community partners that are directly addressing healthy lifestyle issues in Knox County and surrounding areas that have interest in hosting AmeriCorps members to increase their reach and effectiveness.

Food Insecurity
As of 2016 Knox County, TN had a food insecurity rate of 13.3% or approximately 59,550 people.  Surrounding counties had similar statistics with food insecurity rates as low as 10% and as high as 14.5%.  In total, there were 119,170 people in the 9-county area to be served by the proposed program.  At the same time, as of 2010, adult obesity in Knox and surrounding counties hovered at 30%.

CAC AmeriCorps seeks to leverage the significant internal resources of our agency including our Mobile Meals Kitchen, Beardsley Farm, and SNAP benefits program in partnership with community organizations and faith-based institutions to address these challenges.

Opioid / Drug Addiction
According to the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, drug related deaths in Knox and Anderson county doubled from 2010-2015. Between 2016-2017, these counties saw an increase of drug related deaths by more than 41%. The number of drug related deaths investigated in Knox and Anderson counties in 2017 was 362, likely a low estimate of the actual drug related deaths, yet already higher than the national average. Furthermore, between 2016-2017 Knox County saw a 133% increase in drug related deaths in the 15-24 age group.

CAC AmeriCorps is looking for community partners that are engaged in fighting the Opioid Crisis in Knox County and surrounding areas that have interest in hosting AmeriCorps members to increase their reach and effectiveness.

Aging in Place
With a growth rate of 27% in the senior population of Knox County, the need for services will correspondingly increase. Since 1975, the CAC Office on Aging has worked to assist Knox County’s older residents in providing them with the resources they need to stay independently in their homes for as long as possible. The Office on Aging boasts 25 programs including Knox PAWS, Senior Nutrition/Mobile Meals, Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, Project LIVE, and many more, serving thousands of seniors each year.

CAC AmeriCorps is looking to assist agency programs, as well as seek out community partnerships that are engaging in senior services, that are interested in increasing their capacity.

If you are an organization working to address one or more of the above topics in East Tennessee, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you regarding the potential of hosting a full-time national service member in support of your mission.  Reach out!