’An Epidemic Within This Pandemic’: Reported Drug Overdoses Rise In Georgia Amid COVID-19, Groups Say

Monday’s special edition of “Closer Look” focuses on the reported rise in overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia and nationwide.

Patrick Sison / Associated Press file

Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day — a date when advocacy groups worldwide aim to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of seeking help for addiction.

In Georgia, state and local advocacy groups say this date comes as the number of reported overdoses is rising amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a published memo June 19, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Public Health, noted a rise in drug overdose-involved emergency room visits throughout the state.

“The United States is facing two concurrent national public health emergencies: COVID-19 and drug overdoses. In Georgia, the recent increase in drug overdose involved ED visits appears to overlap with the emergence of COVID-19,” the memo noted.

The memo also found that the number of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in the state has risen by 17% from December 2019 through April 2020 when compared to the previous five-month period.

On Monday’s edition of “Closer Look,” host Rose Scott spoke with state and local organizations working to respond to a demand for resources.

First, Neil Campbell, executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, and Beverly Ragland, CARES Warm Line manager at the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, share how their organization is ramping up efforts to provide virtual recovery sessions and resources statewide.

Then, Tom Morris, associate administrator for Rural Health Policy in the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, discusses how new federal funding aims to fight the opioid crisis in rural areas of the state.

Dr. Mojgan Zare, executive director of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, talks about the policy changes she would like to see at the state and local level to break down barriers for those seeking treatment for addiction.


To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.