Georgia opioid task force resumes in-person meetings, faces grim data
KENNESAW, Ga. - Georgia's Statewide Opioid Task Force met in person for the first time in nearly two years Tuesday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When we first announced the creation of this task force in 2017, none of us knew that we'd be facing a global health pandemic," said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.
The health crisis, health experts believe, has only intensified the country's opioid crisis with decreased funding for recovery programs and virtual-only support.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control released new statistics that showed drug overdose deaths topped 100,000 for the first time in a 12 month period, a 28.5% increase.
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"Georgians understand the causes and tragic impact of the opioid epidemic, but the situation is not hopeless. With the collaboration with our public health, public safety and judicial systems, we can beat it," said Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn. "It's literally a matter of life and death."
Attorney General Carr said the task force has three main goals:
- to learn what each of them are doing to address the crisis
- to figure out what they can do to leverage the expertise in the state
- to identify what gaps exist and how to fill them
While the task force continued to hold online meetings in recent months, Carr said there is value in being in the same space.
"It's just hard to do that on a Zoom," Carr explained. "You can do a little bit. You can information share, but to have human beings in the room with other human beings to share and to collaborate and to brainstorm, there's no other way to do it than to do it in person in my opinion."
The gathering was held at Kennesaw State University and also gave task force members the opportunity to learn more about KSU's Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery.
"We want to make sure that any student on campus does not feel invisible, they do not fall through the cracks," explained Jessica McDaniel, interim assistant director of CYAAR. "Whatever they're going through, even if they're not the one with a substance use disorder, maybe it's a friend, maybe it's a family member, we want them to know that we are there as a resource to support them."
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McDaniel is in recovery and is a prime example of how the program works. She said substance use disrupted her education when she was a student at KSU, but a friend helped her find resources. McDaniel said she has not had a drink or drug since October 2013 and earned both her bachelor's degree and her master's.
"I was presented with people who are in recovery and in college and they were really active in talking about being in recovery, being in college and they told me that I could do it too. And so, I came and joined Kennesaw State's collegiate recovery program and that was the best decision I've ever made," said McDaniel. "I got the opportunity to come work at the center and get to really take that message of hope, that message of opportunity and give it to others."
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