Donna M. Eastridge and Nathan Severt

By Jill Penley

Officers and investigators with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department arrested two individuals on drug charges last week after serving a search warrant at 10950 Highway 421 South in Mountain City. Officers were able to identify two adult males, an adult female and a juvenile female at the residence, which contained methamphetamine, monies, and firearms. One man, identified by officers as Nathan Severt, 20, of Jefferson, NC, is now facing charges of possession of Schedule II drugs as he was arrested with methamphetamine on his person. The adult female, Donna M. Eastridge, 52, of Mountain City was also charged with possession of Schedule II drugs for resale, possession of schedule VI for resale, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Severt’s bond is set at $35,000, while Eastridge’s is set at $120,000. The investigation is ongoing according to Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece.

While rural leaders and local law enforcement continue to deal with the illegal manufacturing, distribution, and use of methamphetamine, the opioid crisis is also slamming the area hard. “Abuse of methamphetamine and opioids continue to keep us busy,” said Mountain City Police Chief Denver Church, who points to the need for a collaborative way to keep track of abusers. “With Johnson County bordering Virginia and North Carolina, it increases the need for a better federal tracking system that all law enforcement agencies could utilize.” State leaders, too, are finally addressing the glaring drug problem as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently announced a major multi-faceted plan, dubbed TN Together, to combat the state’s opioid problem to the tune of $30 million. “This is a crisis that knows no boundaries and impacts many Tennesseans regardless of race, income, gender or age,” said Haslam. “Our approach will be aggressive with provisions to limit the supply of opioids and significant state and federal dollars to provide treatment to those in need.” The TN Together initiative is reportedly based on a three-pronged approach focusing on prevention, treatment and law enforcement aspects of the opioid epidemic.

The prevention approach for dosage of prescription opioids, limiting initial prescriptions to a five-day supply with daily dosage limits. “Higher dosages of opioids have been associated with higher risk of overdose and death while proving ineffective at reducing pain over the long term,” according to the plan. State and federal funding will increase towards treatment and recovery services as part of the treatment prong of the plan. For the treatment approach, more than $25 million will be spent in state and federal funds for treatment and recovery services for individuals with opioid disorders. The final aspect of the plan will focus on updating the schedule of controlled substances to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs.