By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
How families found hope amid addiction. Stories shared at Partnership for Drug Free Hall forum
09072018 OPIOD 002.JPG
Kyle Kersey, left, speaks about his struggle with substance abuse to his father, Joe, center, and Patti Ship, right, during the third forum for the Partnership for Drug Free Hall at First Baptist Church Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. This forum was directed at parents to recognize early signs of dangerous behavior and how to intervene. - photo by Austin Steele

The turning point in Kyle Kersey’s journey with addiction came when his fiancee left and his father, Joe, refused to bail him out of jail. He stayed there for 11 days, read “The Purpose Driven Life” and felt “Jesus tug on my heart.”

“I wanted to make a change, not somebody else,” he said.

Kyle and Joe Kersey shared their story in an interview format with Patti Shipp during the Partnership for Drug Free Hall’s third forum Thursday, Sept. 6, at the First Baptist Church banquet hall in Gainesville.

Shipp introduced the family’s journey as a “story of confusion, despair, but ultimately hope.”

09072018 OPIOD 004.JPG
Deb Bailey of NGHS talks about steps taken in Hall county to fight opioids during the third forum for the Partnership for Drug Free Hall at First Baptist Church Thursday, Sep. 6, 2018. This forum is directed at parents to recognize early signs of dangerous behavior and how to intervene. - photo by Austin Steele

Kyle Kersey said he took his first drink at 16 and later used marijuana.

“All in all I was shy. I wasn’t very outgoing, and I never really felt like I fit in, even with my friends,” he said, saying the drink made him feel like he could be “one of the guys.”

His father said he took “the responsibility for being an enabler.”

“The hardest thing in the world to do when you love someone is say ‘no,’” Joe Kersey said.

Kyle Kersey entered treatment and later became a certified counselor in addiction and recovery.

09072018 OPIOD 001.JPG
Beth French speaks about the loss of her son to opioids during the third forum for the Partnership for Drug Free Hall at First Baptist Church Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. The forum was directed at parents to recognize early signs of dangerous behavior and how to intervene. - photo by Austin Steele

The focus of the event was to help people identify the signs and symptoms of substance abuse while learning about the options for early intervention and treatment.

“Our community has been instrumental in writing and passing legislation on every piece of opioid legislation in the last five years,” said Deb Bailey, government affairs executive director at Northeast Georgia Health System.

Examples included the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Act, which allowed people to buy the opioid overdose antidote Narcan over the counter, as well as the 911 amnesty law.

Since the beginning of the hospital’s peer support program for overdose victims in October, Bailey said more than 1,000 people, with an average age of 42, have been served.

“People that come into our emergency room that have had an overdose ... they are seen by a peer, a peer meaning a person that is in long-term recovery, they’ve been in recovery over two years, they’ve attended a certification and they are there to hold the hand of the patients that come into all three of our emergency departments,” Bailey said.

09072018 OPIOD 003.JPG
The crowd listens during the third forum for the Partnership for Drug Free Hall at First Baptist Church Thursday, Sept. 6. This forum was directed at parents to recognize early signs of dangerous behavior and how to intervene. - photo by Austin Steele

Heather Hayes, the featured speaker and host for A&E’s “Intervention,” said families need boundaries to protect themselves and begin the healing process.

Addiction affects everyone in a family, stretching often to other generations, Hayes said. 

“If there’s not a consequence in there that’s better than our perception of how much fun it is or how great it is, we’re not going to stop,” she said.

Regional events