Emory Healthcare announced Wednesday that it will be joining forces with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to create the Addiction Alliance of Georgia, a public private partnership throughout the state to advance addiction-related clinical care education and research.
The groups said the alliance would provide hope and healing to families and communities affected by substance use disorders across the state.
“The addiction and mental health conditions of too many Americans have reached a crisis. And it is a crisis exacerbated by a pandemic that has increased anxiety, isolation, and economic hardship. By joining together in this time of tremendous need and harnessing the contributions of concerned donors, the larger community and government agencies, Emory and Hazelden Betty Ford are ready to take on these challenges throughout our state,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of Emory University.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the state faces two national public health emergencies – the COVID-19 pandemic and drug overdoses. In a public alert, the department said overdose-related emergency room visits have increased in Georgia since the pandemic began. Death counts between December 2019 and April 2020 were 17 percent higher than in the previous five-month period, the department said.
“Ultimately, our goal is to help reduce rates of substance use disorder, improve recovery rates and save more lives throughout Georgia,” Hazelden Betty Ford President and CEO Mark Mishek said. “The disease of addiction is a public health issue so big, so important and so heightened now due to the coronavirus pandemic that it requires long-term collaboration among all who are committed to confronting it, and that is what the Addiction Alliance of Georgia aims to facilitate.”
The Alliance said it would be focusing on outreach and education initiatives, including a possible prevention program at Atlanta-area schools, training partnerships with educators on substance use disorder, and community-based workshops aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding substance use disorder. The Alliance will also work with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention through a recently created Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement that will focus on addiction-related medical education and stigma reduction.
Organizers hope the group will serve as a national role model for other unique public-private partnerships. The Alliance said it is working closely with state behavioral health leaders 0 such as the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Grady Health System, Morehouse School of Medicine, the Medical Association of Georgia, and federally qualified health centers throughout the state to identify needs and priorities.