Georgia Council on Substance Abuse symposium scheduled for Feb. 13
Close to 100 people turned out for a community leadership roundtable hosted by the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse (GCSA) at Tabernacle Baptist Church Thursday.
The event began with introductory remarks from District 15 State Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville.)
“It is tremendous work that’s very important to all of us who are here today and to those of us here in Bartow County,” he said. “This is an issue that we continue to hear about at the State level … every community is dealing with this.”
Gambill told the attendees he didn’t have any “silver bullets or quick fixes” to remedy Georgia’s substance abuse crisis.
“This is probably going to be more of a crockpot opportunity than a microwave opportunity,” he said. “But the people that are in this room today are all blessed with the knowledge and the ability that we need to continue to provide and to figure out what we need to be doing here in Bartow County to address this issue.”
That brought Jeff Breedlove, the GCSA’s chief of communications and policy, to the podium.
“If you can start to make a difference for a cause in a county like Bartow, then you can make a difference across the state,” he said. “Recovery is about people, not policy — policy helps people, but it’s driven by each of us.”
The former political strategist once served as a campaign manager for Bob Barr. In 2016, he was arrested in a Decatur drug bust — at the time, he was serving as chief of staff for DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester.
“There’s lot of multiple pathways to recovery and at the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, we support all of those,” he said.
When it comes to federal legislation pertaining to substance abuse treatment, he said House Resolution 2466 is something the GCSA is keeping a very close eye on.
“It’s a bipartisan piece of legislation that’s over in the House of Representatives right now,” Breedlove said. “What it does is it provides five years of guaranteed funding — at the current rates, it’s not even asking for more money —it’s going to take the current money that funds these recovery community organization [RCO] programs and let local communities know it’s going to be there for at least five years.”
Breedlove said such a measure would allow “real people in the real world to have some stability in these programs.”
Last year, the bill had two co-sponsors from Georgia — Democratic U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Lucy McBath, who represent the State’s 5th and 6th congressional districts, respectively.
“We need some more, but it is supported pretty equally by Republicans and Democrats,” Breedlove said. “We want to earn Congressman Loudermilk’s support … it’s got to get a certain level of support before Speaker Pelosi will bring that for a vote.”
On the State level, Breedlove said there is some palpable anxiety regarding potential funding decreases.
“[Gov. Brian Kemp] has asked for budget cuts across the board, so we have to make our case to Gov. Kemp and our members of the General Assembly that if that’s going to be the reality in Georgia, the last place you want to cut in the upcoming session which starts Monday is the No. 1 thing killing more Georgians than anything else,” he said. “That is our overriding issue in the Legislative session — just please don’t cut funding for recovery programs.”
Several Georgia lawmakers, Breedlove said, have received permission from Speaker of the House David Ralston (R, Blue Ridge) and Lieutenant Gov. Geoff Duncan to form a bipartisan and bicameral working group on addiction and recovery.
“It’s just a group of lawmakers who want to come together across party lines and study and work on and promote legislation that’s friendly to the recovery community,” he said. “They have one in a few other states, this is the first time for Georgia … if that’s all that happens this session, that’ll be a big victory for our community.”
Brian Kite, the GCSA’s RCO development project coordinator, concluded the roundtable with an update on efforts to bring such an organization to Bartow County.
“RCOs are nonprofit organizations that are run and led by peers in recovery, generally grassroots organizations
,” he said. “Because of the great work that many of them were doing, the State, through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities [DBHDD], recognized that and when funding became available from a federal level to the states, they made a small portion of the funding that they received to go to recovery supports.”
For Bartow, the next step is a GCSA recovery symposium.
“Individuals in the community come together, we foster these collaborative relationships, we see so many different great organizations that are supporting people, but sometimes we lack that connection,” he said. “At that symposium, we not only hear stories that are powerful from individuals … we get to ask the community some strategic questions that the planning committee has decided upon that are important for that community.”
The local GCSA symposium is scheduled for Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville, located at 183 West Main St.
“With that information, the RCO is able to move forward with where their focus needs to be to support individuals in recovery,” Kite said.