North Fulton Chamber hosts heroin summit - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Nov 14 @ 1:05PM

North Fulton Chamber hosts heroin summit

Leaders call for action to fight opioid addiction

The Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce hosted a summit on heroin addiction May 25. Participating are from left Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker and Roswell Mayor Jere Wood.
Dawn Camarda, second from right, gives a parent’s testimonial of heroin use in her family. Listening from left are mayors Mike Bodker of Johns Creek, Jere Wood of Roswell, David Belle Isle of Alpharetta, Rusty Paul of Sandy Springs and Chamber CEO Brandon Beach.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Only one thing brought North Fulton leaders, educators and law enforcement officers to the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce offices May 25 – heroin addiction in everyone’s own backyard.

Chamber President and CEO Brandon Beach told the some 60 people gathered that it was time for North Fulton County to confront the problem of opioid addiction head on.

“I have tried to stay in my lane and just look after business and transportation in this community,” Beach said. “But in the last two years, my wife and I have seen our friends bury six of their children from ages 26 to 30.

“All of them died of heroin or opioid addiction. It is a cancer in our community that cannot be ignored.”

It is an issue that has been taken up by the community and it should be a plan of action that involves the community, he said.

The meeting was officially held with the North Fulton Mayors Association, with mayors Mike Bodker (Johns Creek), Jere Wood (Roswell), Rusty Paul (Sandy Springs) and David Belle Isle (Alpharetta) in attendance and offering support.

Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann, whose day job is with the chamber, supported the effort to bring attention to North Fulton’s drug problem out in the open.

“And it is important to see it as a health issue. Give Bandon [Beach] credit for bringing these people together to look at this as more than crime. It’s young people dying, too,” Hausmann said.

Fulton County is redirecting resources to be more proactive in treating drug addiction as a health issue.

“It is about changing the mindset in treating addicts. We still have to go after drug pushers – they are peddling death. But we are looking at Behavior Health Services as a way to help people who need it,” Hausmann said.

Outsourcing those services will help, she said. It will allow the county to treat people holistically.

“We need new answers. Fulton County spends $14 million a year on health services just for the jail. We need a network of services outside to break that cycle [of drug dependence],” Hausmann said.

Alpharetta Public Safety Director John Robison said he would like to create permanent drop-off points for surplus prescription medicine.

“We periodically set up temporary sites to turn in drugs, but it is an ongoing issue that shouldn’t be that hard to do,” Robison said. “Everyone gets it that there is a problem, but we still have people out there that are clueless.”

Many of North Fulton’s heroin addicts get their start raiding their parents’ medicine cabinets for opioids lying around and unneeded.

Doctors still routinely overprescribe opioids for various conditions, and research shows it is a primary source of opiates that starts the path to addiction – in both adults and teenagers.

Meanwhile, local police are doing two jobs. They carry the wonder drug Narcan that can resuscitate an opioid victim almost miraculously if they get to the victim in time.

On that end, the cities of North Fulton will see greater cooperation among the law enforcement departments and with Forsyth County.

“There is a triangle of drug abuse from Alpharetta to Forsyth to Johns Creek. There is no one demographic for an addict. We all fit the profile,” Robison said. “So we will be working closely together and share our resources.”

Synthetic opioids are here such as fentanyl. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Many drug deaths are caused by addicts taking fentanyl when the think they are using heroin.

And there are more potent synthetics in the pipeline.

Beach said the meeting was only a beginning.

“We have six mayors here (in North Fulton). We can make things happen,” Beach said. “This was not the last meeting. It’s the first.”

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