FBI Knoxville
Public Affairs Specialist Joyce McCants
(865) 544-0751
March 7, 2018

Karen Pershing Selected to Receive the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge, Renae McDermott, Knoxville Division, will present Karen Pershing with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, on March 9, 2018 at 1:30 p.m., at the FBI Field Office in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Since 1990, the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award (DCLA) has been a principal means by which the FBI has publicly recognized the achievements of individuals and organizations that make extraordinary contributions to their community.  Each of the FBI's Field Offices selects one individual or organization each year to receive this award.

The Knoxville Division honors Karen Pershing for more than 30 years of public health service and dedication to improving the health of the greater Knoxville community.

She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Metro Drug Coalition (MDC), an organization dedicated to improving the health of the greater Knoxville community by reducing the use of alcohol and drugs through policy, systems and environment change.  Under Pershing’s leadership, she established a Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force that has been recognized by both state and federal elected officials as a model coalition in bringing diverse leaders in medical and law enforcement together to create effective policy change, subsequently reducing prescribing and raising the standard of care for all Tennesseans.

Karen Pershing has been a staunch advocate for reducing the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition in which newborns experience painful withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth as a result of the medications their mothers took during their pregnancies, through the development and implementation of the Born Drug Free Tennessee awareness and educational initiative.  As a result, Knox County saw an 18 percent decrease in the incidence of NAS births from 2015 to 2016 and the region surrounding Knox, saw a 12 percent decrease.  This is something that she is most proud of and will continue to not only be an advocate for these babies, but also for these young mothers to get the support and help they need to be successful.

By focusing on prevention, Pershing knows that our families and communities will be safer, healthier and economically prosperous.  No one is more committed to breaking the cycle of substance abuse and its devastating effects.

Other Accomplishments

  • In 2016, MDC and Pershing were instrumental in passing and or supporting five laws: pain clinic bill to strengthen requirements of a medical director, licensure of outpatient buprenorphine clinics, licensure of pain clinics, Prescription Safety Act of 2016, sunset of the fetal assault law passed in 2014.
  • In 2016, became the “Action Team” for the opioid reduction efforts of the Knoxville/Knox County/Town of Farragut’s Community Health Council.
  • In 2016, a partnership was established with the Knoxville Academy of Medicine Alliance to provide additional education and outreach.
  • In 2016, Pershing was the recipient of the Partners and Leadership Award from the Tennessee Public Health Association

Pershing will also be recognized by FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday, April 20, 2018 at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC.

For more information on the FBI’s Knoxville Division, visit www.fbi.gov/knoxville