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New addiction program launched as overdose-related emergency room visits rise

The new alliance aims to combat addiction in Atlanta and beyond.

ATLANTA — The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Emory Healthcare are joining forces to create a new addiction and recovery resource: The Addiction Alliance of Georgia

William Moyers, a Hazelden Betty Ford executive who overcame his own addiction, was on the Zoom press conference Wednesday morning announcing the collaboration and said he worked to bring the two groups together.

"We've come a long way in Georgia since I stepped out of the crack house October 12, 1994 in terms of resources," he said. "We've come a long way as far as stigma and public understanding, but we've got a long way to go."  

Emory Psychiatrist, Dr. Justine Welsh, said now, it's more important than ever to have the Alliance during this pandemic.

"I'm seeing an escalation in alcohol use, and cannabis, and opioids, and stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine," Welsh listed.

Overdoses are up, too, experts said. Emergency room visits from overdoses from December of 2019 to April of 2020 were up 17 percent - and that just tracks the first few months of the pandemic. 

"And we expect those numbers to continue to go up," Welsh added. 

RELATED: Georgia sees 18 percent increase in people seeking treatment for addiction since pandemic started

Welsh said the Addiction Alliance of Georgia aims to fill in the gaps to support as many Georgians as they can.

"Addiction is an illness that doesn't discriminate and recovery shouldn't discriminate either," Moyers agreed.

The Alliance has a goal of increasing clinical services, research and education, and even developing programs for school-aged children to teach them about addiction and decrease the stigma of getting help.

"Not just to people with insurance, not just to people with jobs, but for all people who need help and healing," Moyers said. 

Phase one of the alliance's plan includes expanding existing outpatient services at Emory. Within two years, they hope to develop an intensive outpatient program and partial hospitalization program, renovating spaces at the Wesley Wood campus on Clifton Road. Then during phase two, they plan on building a freestanding detox unit and residential program located at the Executive Park campus.  

For more information on the alliance, go to addictionallianceofgeorgia.org.