ELLIJAY, Ga. – Recent highlights have shown major steps in our county by the Sheriff’s Office and cooperating agencies and agents with cases like the recent arrest of a wanted member of the Ghost Face gang to arrests made after Gilmer Deputies uncovered the murder of a woman in Cherry Log.
Today, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Stacy Nicholson released information pertaining towards the seizure of illegal drugs, guns, and operations in the county. Totaling a quarter of a million dollars, this number is only made more alarming to know that it is only the total amount captured in the first half of 2021.
Sheriff’s deputies and agents of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Operation have reported the majority of captures as Methamphetamines, a drug that has been a problem for Gilmer County for years. Along with the information, they listed many of their seizures and the dates of occurrence:
Jan. 7 – 3.5 gr Meth
Jan. 13 – 3.5 gr Meth
Feb. 21 – 6.8 gr Meth
Feb. 24 – 22 gr Meth
Feb. 24 – 1 oz. Marijuana
Mar. 1 – Meth
Mar 11 – 10 gr Heroin
Mar. 17 – 8 gr Heroin, Meth, Ecstacy
Mar. 23 – 32 gr Meth, 31 gr Marijuana, 25 Schedule IV pills, $1,800 Cash
Mar. 30 – Dismantled “chop shop” operation
Apr. 1 – 1 gr Meth, 30 oz. Marijuana
Apr. 17 – 3.5 gr Meth, 28 Schedule IV pills
May 20 – 14 gr Heroin 4 gr Meth, firearms, 4 gr Meth, 20 THC vapes
May 28 – 40 Ecstasy pills
May 29 – 7 gr Heroin
June 3 – 8 Ecstasy pills, Firearms
June 8 – 3 oz. Meth, 1 oz. Heroin (along with West Metro/Fulton Co.)
June 11 – 167.1 gr Meth, 94.2 gr Heroin (along with GSP/Fannin Co.)
June 12 – 3.5 gr Meth, 5 gr Heroin
June 21 – 3.5 gr Meth
June 28 – 1 kilo Meth, 3 gr Heroin
July 7 – 1 lb. Marijuana, 1 kilo Meth
July 16 – 1.38 lb Meth, 6 gr Heroin
According to the Sheriff, this is not an exhaustive list. During their release “from the desk of the Sheriff,” Nicholson states, “This post highlights some of the more significant drug cases that GCSO Detectives, Crime Suppression Unit (CSU), K9 Deputies and Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement (ARDEO) Agents have made for the first half of 2021. This doesn’t include all cases made, however it does highlight the more significant ones.”
Another point to think about is that this is the amount they seized, continuing operations still have more and more drugs circulating through the streets.
During these operations alone, 33 people have been arrested. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a study in 2018 showed 67,367 deaths by overdose in Georgia alone. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 2020, a year with most people at home in isolation and quarantine, Gilmer County alone saw 534 Emergency Department visits over the year related to Drug Overdose specifically. That number is only those who made it to the Emergency Room to be treated.
Many others offer alternative stories. Stories like a boy who overdosed on his own couch, and rather than call 911 to get help, his friend leaves him to die so he doesn’t get caught with the drugs.
Decatur, GA – On Thursday, June 29, 2017, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) conducted an assessment of the fentanyl spill. This assessment has determined that evidence containing a powder of fine furanyl fentanyl leaked through untaped corners and seams of a cardboard box. The furanyl fentanyl came from powder residue within the box. The Crime Lab has modified lab procedures related to repackaging and return of drug evidence to ensure that this situation does not recur. These procedures include enhanced sealing and new containment protocols. Return of drug evidence has resumed.
6/28/17 – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab is currently reviewing internal procedures for packaging drug evidence. This follows information received from the Duluth Police Department that evidence containing a fentanyl related drug spilled out of a package that was returned to the agency today. Additionally, the crime lab will be conducting a thorough review of this incident with the goal of establishing what caused the spill. A temporary hold has been placed on the release of all drug evidence during the review. An update will be provided following the full assessment.
Georgia is suffering a wave of overdoses as new forms of extremely potent and often deadly drugs make their way into our communities. In fact, a new report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that opioid-related hospital admissions nearly doubled between 2009 and 2014 – the highest rate of the 43 states examined. The Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals and our 86 members across the state are proud to be part of the first-line of response to these sobering tragedies.
These illegal drugs, which know no geographic, demographic or economic bounds, have changed the way that overdoses come into our hospital emergency rooms and demonstrate the importance of having a robust and resilient network of hospital emergency departments.
Increasingly, overdoses come in clusters of multiple incidences within a short time. The impact on an emergency room can be paralyzing, even for a large Metro Atlanta hospital, much less a smaller facility in a rural market. The impact can also be lasting, as stabilized patients often require prolonged medical support, including intensive care and services from a number of different departments.
On top of this growing epidemic, emergency rooms are also experiencing increased visits related to behavioral or mental health, which have have skyrocketed nearly 60% over the same period. This is in addition to the heart attacks, accidents and other life threatening situations that bring patients through their doors and require a hospital’s full capabilities to treat. This week, Becker’s Hospital Review ranked the emergency rooms with the most visits per year, placing two Metro Atlanta facilities in the top ten nationwide.
As hospitals deal with the strain of increasing admissions, the existence of a strong network of neighboring hospitals helps distribute the patient load and ensure timely access to care. But today, as hospitals across Georgia struggle under the pressure of financial challenges caused by factors including changing demographics, growing numbers of underinsured and uninsured patients, and declining populations – that network is at risk.
For example, it is estimated that Georgia hospitals performed $1.7 billion dollars worth of uncompensated care in 2015 alone, which is simply unsustainable. In addition, potential cuts in Medicare and Medicaid are being discussed in Washington, DC, that would force more hospitals to close their doors, as 7 in Georgia and 80 across the nation have been forced to do since 2010.
One of the keys to the stability of Georgia’s network of care is the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) program. This critical tool helps the state manage the availability and financial survival of safety net hospitals while ensuring access to emergency departments, advanced treatment, and routine healthcare needs. Despite the tenuous status of our current healthcare system, CON continues to come under attack, largely by out-of-state corporate chains whose priorities place financial gain before patient care.
At least five legislative proposals were brought forth during this year’s session of the General Assembly that sought to weaken or repeal the CON laws that protect our healthcare system. Since that time, the Georgia Department of Community Health has considered an additional proposal, but voted to retain the current rules.
Many of the arguments for repealing or weakening CON hinge on the idea that more facilities, offering limited services, will enhance patient choice. But experience proves that these new facilities often choose to offer only the most-lucrative procedures, to the most well-insured patients. This occurs at the expense of existing hospitals, which then lose the benefit of offering profitable services that help cover the cost of much-needed but costly services, such as emergency rooms and trauma centers.
Healthcare markets are different from most “free” markets for goods and services. Consumers often do not understand the true costs of care, nor do they have sufficient information to compare services by different providers or in different facilities.
Simply having more facilities does not equate to greater access for patients. As existing hospitals are weakened financially, sometimes closing as a result, patient choice is actually reduced, while unneeded facilities proliferate in lucrative markets.
Expert testimony recently commissioned by the Georgia Attorney General’s office demonstrated that CON programs can reduce healthcare costs, improve the quality of healthcare services, and expand access to care. Conversely, if existing hospitals are weakened financially, sometimes closing as a result, patient choice is ultimately reduced.
Georgia’s hospital system faces serious challenges, from the rise of opioid overdose clusters and spread of infectious diseases like the Zika virus, to the political and financial challenges emanating from Washington, DC. Preserving and strengthening our front line of healthcare response is vital not only to our health, but to our continuing prosperity as a state. The time could not be worse for weakening protections for our hospital system, which would come at the unquestionable risk of reducing access to healthcare and emergency services.
Monty Veazey is President of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, a statewide organization of not-for-profit hospitals. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1977 to 1983.