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How new recovery center could reduce opiate addiction relapses
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Cindy Gay's late son Jeffrey, pictured in a painting, died of an opioid overdose in 2012. - photo by David Barnes

After two years in recovery from opiate addiction, Jeffrey Gay seemed to again have a normal lifestyle — until he didn’t.

His grandfather, Dallas Gay, said “associating with people from his past led to (Jeffrey) overdosing on opiates.”

Jeffrey, like many others, relapsed. He died in October 2012.

Following a $250,000 grant from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disorders, Dallas Gay said a recovery community organization bearing his grandson’s name, the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Recovery Center, could prevent others from his fate.

It’s what he described as a “legacy that we didn’t wish for” but has the potential to save lives.

Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Recovery Center

What: New recovery community organization in Hall County

Where: Center Point, 1050 Elephant Trail, Gainesville

Contact Executive Director Mary Paglia at 678-316-0403 to schedule an appointment

“I really believe if Jeffrey had had this type of organization available to him at that time, that he would most likely still be with us today. I just see it as being such an important component of stopping the relapse and reducing the relapse rate,” Dallas Gay said.

According to a 2016 article in the Journal of Addiction, the relapse rate after detoxification from opioids “ranges from 72 to 88 percent after 12 to 36 months.” Of those that relapsed in the study, more than 61 percent had been using for more than three years.

Deb Bailey, government affairs executive director for Northeast Georgia Health System, said the Georgia General Assembly budgeted $4 million for recovery community organizations. The behavioral health department awarded 16 grants, including one to the Gainesville/Hall community, in September.

“It was their goal to basically ... partner with communities that have established both interest and motivation to do something around the opioid epidemic and addiction problems that we have in our community,” Bailey said.

The recovery community organization is not a treatment center, but a collection of services that Bailey said will help create an environment “conducive to recovery in mind, body and spirit.”

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Dallas Gay, an organizer for Partnership for a Drug Free Hall, poses for a portrait in Gainesville, on Oct. 13, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

To Dallas Gay, it’s long-term structure.

Bailey said the recovery center could be the missing piece in the Northeast Georgia area, a way of “shepherding these people into a true opportunity to recover.”

“We’re not going to determine for them what they need, but we’re going to ask them what they feel they need, what they feel they want and what would be helpful for them,” Bailey said.

According to NGHS, the number of opioid cases involving treatment through June of this year stands at 189, which includes all areas of the health system. In all of 2017, the number was 573.

In 2016, there were 696 opioid-related cases across the three emergency departments in Gainesville, Braselton and Barrow. Bailey and others are hopeful for a continued decrease in the number of cases.

So far, the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Recovery Center only has one paid employee, executive director Mary Paglia, and it is working out of the Center Point building in Gainesville.

Bailey said Paglia’s job at this time is to conduct listening sessions on what sort of services people in the community are seeking as well as attracting donors.

Ideas that Bailey floated as possibilities for the recovery center included partnering with local colleges for GED education and other certifications, skills training, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other alternatives to AA.

There is hope to eventually branch out of the Center Point building into a new space.