On Friday, State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle pledged to support President Donald Trump’s declaration that the opioid epidemic is a nationwide public health emergency.

The opioid issue is one that Unterman in particular has been highlighting and targeting in recent months with local and state criminal justice and law enforcement officials, including Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader. They have held summits and press conference to bring attention the issue.

Now comes Trump’s declaration, which means his administration will mobilize resources to address the issue. Unterman, who is the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee chairwoman, and Cagle pledged to take legislative steps in 2018 to supports that effort in Georgia.

“Throughout this year, I have worked closely with Lt. Governor Cagle to develop a comprehensive set of solutions that will allow our state to jump to the forefront of taking on addiction, the opioid crisis, and strengthening behavioral health services,” Unterman said.

“In the coming weeks, we will come forward with legislation ready on day 1 in January to continue our fight against this epidemic.”

While Unterman, Cagle and Georgia Prevention Project Executive Director/Substance Abuse Research Alliance Chairman Jim Langford are commending Trump for declaring the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, they also highlighted the extent to which it is an issue in Georgia.

There were 1,426 Georgia residents who died from drug overdoses last year, they said. The group also said Georgia had the largest year-over-year percentage increases for overdose-related in-patient services from 2009 to 2014. Another statistic that they cited was the state’s 11th place ranking in per capita prescription opioid overdoses in 2015.

“We recognize that overdoses are just the tip of the iceberg, and for every life lost, there are thousands more struggling with addiction,” Cagle said. “During the 2018 Legislative Session, I will work with stakeholders across our state to advance community-based solutions – focused on prevention, treatment, and recovery – to defeat the opioid crisis and ensure that no more lives are cut short.”

Meanwhile, Langford said the Substance Abuse Research Alliance is an eager participant in efforts to reduce opioid addiction and overdoses.

“SARA is proud to partner with more than 120 key individuals and organizations to offer recommendations to address the threat of opioid and heroin addiction,” he said. “I look forward to joining Lt. Governor Cagle and Senator Unterman to aggressively promote innovative and effective policies that will stop this crisis from worsening and save countless lives.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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