- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


July 2

The Augusta Chronicle on Georgia’s vulnerability to the opioid epidemic:

If you really want to know whether you’re keeping ahead of something, you look. You may also measure.

When it comes to the nation’s opioid epidemic, one measurement tells you all you need to know:

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield,” says one report, “recorded a 493 percent increase in people diagnosed with opioid use disorders from 2010 through 2016. At the same time, there was only a 65 percent increase in the number of people using medication-assisted treatment.

“It’s easier to get high than to get help for addiction.”

Indeed, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, “Only about 10 percent of people with a substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment.”

As we heard in earnest in the recent presidential election cycle - particularly from our friends in hard-hit early-voting state New Hampshire - opioids have become a national emergency. “By 2015,” says one report, “opioid overdose deaths totaled more than 33,000 - close to two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths.”

What started as a family of painkillers has turned into killers.

Augusta and Georgia haven’t been immune. Not in any way, shape or form.

“It is a bad situation,” reports Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen. “People just don’t realize what (opioids) can do.”

Bowen estimates his office now sees some five opioid deaths a month.

Such cases, as well as all other suspicious, unattended or unnatural deaths are no doubt swamping the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s ability to investigate - including performing toxicology results that are often central to deaths that involve crimes.

Credit the legislature and Gov. Nathan Deal, though, for taking bold action in the past year or so.

“In a request to the Georgia Pharmacy Board,” the governor’s office announced last December, “Deal asked that Naloxone, an emergency drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, be removed from the dangerous drug list and rescheduled as a Schedule V exempt drug. The Georgia Board of Pharmacy approved the emergency rule to remove Naloxone. At the same time, Deal directed the Department of Public Health to issue a standing order to allow Naloxone to be dispensed over-the-counter by pharmacists across the state.”

Then, this spring, Deal signed several bills the legislature passed to deal with the epidemic. One bill codified making Naloxone more readily available. Another moved the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to the Department of Public Health - which recognizes the problem is a health problem as much or more than a law enforcement problem.

We applaud our state leaders for responding boldly to what is a growing societal problem.

From chronic pain sufferers to “recreational” users to those medicating themselves because of a lack of meaning in their lives, opioid abuse has essentially become Public Enemy No. 1. We’ve heard of cases in which government benefits, such as food stamps, have even been sold on the black market to get money for opioids.

It’s one more reason to secure our borders, considering that many such drugs from China and elsewhere are coming in illegally.

Hang on tight. This is just beginning.

And it has come home.

Online: https://chronicle.augusta.com/


July 5

The Rome News-Tribune on business expansion in Georgia:

Expansion plans of major players in the grocery business are bringing more competition and more jobs to our area as well as other regions of Georgia. It’s good news for consumers and the economy.

Lidl, the Germany-based global discount supermarket chain, plans to open stores in Rome and Calhoun with up to a dozen stores proposed elsewhere in the state. In addition, the company will invest $100 million over the next five years in a new regional headquarters and distribution center in Cartersville. It’s expected that 250 jobs will be created by this project, the company’s fourth such center, with others in North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. Lidl operates more than 10,000 stores in 28 countries.

In Rome, Lidl will be the anchor tenant in a new 5-acre retail center on Shorter Avenue next to the Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation headquarters. Lidl opened its first 10 stores in the United States in mid-June and has plans for up to 100 stores along the East Coast by next summer, creating a total of 5,000 jobs.

Its big German-based rival, Aldi, which has a store in Rome, also plans to open stores in metro Atlanta and in the Savannah area. Aldi, which entered the U.S. market decades ago, plans to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide over the next five years, creating 25,000 new jobs and making the company third largest in terms of store count in America, the company says.

All this competition between these low-price rivals - as well as other established grocery chains - bodes well for consumers, while the expansion projects will generate substantial economic growth and provide needed jobs in Northwest Georgia and across the state.

The Cartersville project was announced by Gov. Nathan Deal, who credited Georgia’s “business-friendly climate and robust workforce.” He duly noted that “Georgia is a gateway to the Southeastern market and beyond,” providing the logistics infrastructure needed by retail businesses.

Credit Gov. Deal with building an impressive record of business growth. Just during June, he announced several projects by foreign-owned companies in addition to Lidl. Czech Republic-based SILON, a leading producer of technical compounds and polyester staple fibers, will invest $20 million in new Peachtree City facility, creating more than 20 jobs. Carcoustics, another Germany-based supplier to the automotive industry, plans a facility in Buford, investing $6 million and creating 200 jobs over the next five years.

Also the Boston Consulting Group, a global management and consulting firm, announced plans to invest $9.2 million in a new regional support center in Atlanta, adding more than 500 jobs over the next 10 years, including many high-skilled positions. This new investment “will have an estimated $52.7 million total economic impact” on Atlanta, according to Invest Atlanta President and CEO Eloisa Klementich.

Along with the governor, local officials deserve credit for these successes. Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini pointed out the city and county work together “to provide an atmosphere that is conducive for quality businesses to locate and thrive.” He noted the role of the Bartow-Cartersville Joint Development Authority as well as the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

To make the Rome project possible, the City Commission approved a property swap, clearing the way for the needed tracts to be assembled.

The bottom line: Our state, our community and our region are among the best places anywhere to do business, to live and work. Congratulations to all the local and state leaders who had a part in these latest successes.

Online: https://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/


July 5

The Brunswick News on preventing bridge suicides:

The safety of the people is the highest law.

Those words, penned in the first century by Roman statesman Marcus Cicero, are as true today as they were 2,000 years ago.

Government exists for the health, welfare and security of citizens - if for nothing else.

Last Thursday, a woman leapt to her death from the Sidney Lanier Bridge in the early evening. We may never know why this woman chose to take her life, but we know she is not the first.

Since the bridge was opened in 2003, numerous people have taken their lives by jumping from its 185-foot-high apex. This is a catastrophic tragedy that government, citizens, media and health care professionals should be doing everything possible to prevent.

And it is preventable.

Nine out of 10 people who attempt suicide and survive will not die by suicide at a later date, according to a study by Harvard University. The long-term survival rate of people who attempt suicide is encouraging, but interventions are paramount to that success rate.

The Sidney Lanier Bridge should be outfitted with placards or small signs letting potential jumpers know help is available. Suicide hotlines are staffed around the clock, and trained counselors are there to help people step back from the ledge of a very bad idea.

These signs could be placed on both sides of the bridge, with three on each side. Two signs could be placed on the north and south ends of the bridge, at a point where a fall would become lethal. The remaining two signs could be placed at the middle point.

They are just signs. They won’t stop a determined person. But maybe they could invite the person to take a deep breath and know that they are choosing a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

We understand there are guidelines regarding the placement of signs on roads. We are not asking for large markers that would distract drivers. We are asking for small, simple signs that would go unnoticed by most motorists, but would be clearly visible to pedestrians.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is responsible for the maintenance of the Sidney Lanier Bridge and would be the entity to approve such signs.

We call on the department’s governing board, chaired by Robert L. Brown Jr., and our area’s board representative, Ann R. Purcell, to pursue with haste the installation of these signs. We also encourage the public to contact them and voice support for this cause.

We are not asking for multimillion-dollar nets, like those currently being installed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The cost of these signs would likely be less than a few hundred dollars, and even that money could be raised by private donations.

The question for the Georgia Department of Transportation is: How much is a human life worth?

Online: https://goldenisles.news/

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