New GBI initiative aims to slow down opioid crisis - FOX Carolina 21

New GBI initiative aims to slow down opioid crisis

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FILE (FOX Carolina) FILE (FOX Carolina)
LAVONIA, GA (FOX Carolina) -

Lavonia is just a small town, home to less than 2,300 people. But according to police chief Bruce Carlisle, even its citizens have been caught in the opioid crisis sweeping Georgia.

"That trickles down, even though we're small town Georgia,” explained Chief Carlisle. “We still have those issues with people getting on pain killers then becoming addicted to them."

Chief Carlisle says in the past if there was no foul play suspected in an overdose, it was case closed. Now, however, with the help of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office and the GBI, Lavonia Police and 9 other agencies in northern Georgia can work to get suppliers off the streets.

"Gives us some mechanism to get them off the street and make them pay for what they've been involved in,” explained Chief Carlisle.

ARDEO agents will now assist in all overdose investigations and treat overdose deaths like homicides. They can prosecute drug dealers for supplying any drugs directly attributed to those deaths. Agents will also focus on non-fatal overdoses to try and disrupt distribution.

"We feel like this is an important message to the drug dealers,” said Mitchell Posey with GBI.

According to the CDC, there are an estimated 20,000 opioid deaths just last year across the country. Georgia ranks in the top 11 states in the US in overdose deaths. In 2015, 1,300 Georgians died from overdoses.

"We're not going to ignore it. It'll only get worse,” said Posey.

Chief Carlisle says his department had one opioid overdose death so far this year and responded to at least 5 other opioid related calls. In Stephens County, deputies have dealt with another dozen, and all agree they want that number at zero.

"Any is too many,” said Carlisle.

According to the GBI, they've only been able to prosecute one overdose case so far, but on the federal level. They also say this will not interrupt Georgia's 911 Medical Amnesty Law.

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