It all started five years ago with a trip to a convention, an inspirational speaker, a book club and a commitment to keeping kids off drugs.
That is how this week, after a year-long delay due to Covid-19, that copies of Sam Quinones “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” were donated to the libraries of every Knox County middle and high school. The award-winning and best-selling work of non-fiction, originally released in 2015, was re-tooled for a young adult adaption appropriate for students. This donation was made possible by the commitment of the Knoxville Academy of Medicine Alliance (KAMA).
Tennessee AMA president Jacquelynne Prince (profiled here by Knox TN Today) and KAMA’s medication task force chair, Barbara Crist, attended a national AMAA convention together in 2016 where Quinones was the guest speaker.
“After that, we added “Dreamland” to our book club,” Crist said. “He’s a very dynamic speaker. He’s also very generous with his time. He even did a Skype session with our club sitting in his backyard in California. We had a nice, casual conversation.”
When the youth-appropriate version of the book was released, Crist got busy.
“We just thought it would be great to get this book into the hands of young people. So, we decided to try to apply for a grant to fund their purchase to donate to local schools,” she said. “I wrote the grant, and we were delighted to receive it in May of 2020.”
The $2,000 grant was courtesy of the national AMAA’s Alliance Health Education Initiative. The grant was used to purchase copies of the book, which Crist said were generously discounted by the publisher since their purpose was to go to schools.
“I didn’t actually order the books until fall” she said. “I was getting nowhere with it last spring due to Covid, so we postponed distribution for a year.”
Now, a year after the grant was approved, the allotment for Knox County Schools was delivered yesterday, May 11, to the KCS central library distribution center. But, wait, there’s more!
Crist said KAMA also provided posters and instructional materials for each library and for teacher use. KAMA also donated copies to the Knox County Public Library system, including purchasing 10 e-book editions. In addition to all middle and high schools in KCS, Crist said several of the area private schools received copies and discussion material as well, including Webb, Christian Academy of Knoxville and all the Catholic schools. She added that Quinones will schedule Skype or Zoom sessions with classrooms once students have read the book.
Crist said that KAMA will be applying for another grant to provide books and materials for the KCS Elevate program that works with students dealing with addiction.
“This information, this story, is not just for adults,” Crist said. “Teenagers – that’s where we need to start. We hope to find a way to continue working with the schools with this material, to contribute to the school curriculum on this issue.”
In her spare time, Crist manages the office of Westside GI Specialists, where her husband, Jeffrey Crist, MD, is partner.
Beth Kinnane is community news editor for KnoxTNToday.com