At least nine lives in Hall County have been saved from the potentially terminal consequence of an opioid overdose thanks to efforts to equip medical first responders with the drug naloxone.
“It is so very important that the public know about this so that lives can be spared,” said Dallas Gay, co-chairman of Think About It, a nonprofit working to prevent prescription drug abuse in 13 counties in Northeast Georgia, including Hall.
It’s another side of the prescription drug abuse story. It’s the fighting back.
This week, a state committee studying opioid addiction in Georgia will hold its final meeting ahead of the 2017 legislative session, and members plan to discuss their final report at the Capitol in Atlanta.
The panel of state senators, medical providers and public health officials began meeting in September to learn more about abuse and addiction’s effects in Georgia and Thursday will conclude its mandate.
Meetings included a focus on how law enforcement and the courts are handling abuse and the effect it has on health care, the foster care system and treatment centers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,200 people overdosed on drugs in Georgia in 2014, a 10 percent increase from 2013.
And prescription drugs have claimed a larger percentage of that total in recent years.
Many advocates of naloxone, which can quickly reverse overdoses from painkillers or drugs like heroin, want the emergency treatment made more available to combat rising addiction and death rates.
Gov. Nathan Deal recently ordered changes allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.
Deal also announced that he plans to introduce legislation aimed at combating opioid abuse when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.
Think About It was the beneficiary of the annual Medical Center golf event in 2015 held in Gainesville.
Money raised helped support the nonprofit’s education and training programs for local law enforcement while dispensing naloxone to first responders, such as EMTs, firemen and patrol officers, throughout Northeast Georgia.
Nine kits of that lifesaving drug have been successfully administered to reverse opioid overdoses in Hall alone, according to Gay.
“With (Deal’s order) in place, anyone can now be a potential ‘first responder’ to someone who’s life is expiring,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.