State, federal agencies work to tackle opioid crisis - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

State, federal agencies work to tackle opioid crisis

Source: WGCL Source: WGCL
ATLANTA (CBS46) -

The opioid epidemic has killed hundreds of people in Georgia and thousands more across the country.

CBS46 is learning more about the collaborative efforts across the state to tackle the issue.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is consistently seeing opioids, including heroin and Fentanyl, submitted to their lab for testing.

"To date we’ve seen ten different types of Fentanyl come through our state," said Deneen Kilcrease, the GBI's Chemistry Section Manager.  "We know is if it's in the lab, it's out there on the street. What we don't know is how many are out there that we haven’t tested yet and confirmed.”

"The opioid crisis has definitely been a game changer for us," said GBI spokesperson Nelly Miles. "It has definitely put a huge load on the laboratory as well as the investigative division for GBI."

They put in place enhanced protocols for handling and transporting the dangerous drugs, such a lab workers wearing a certain kind of mask when handling powders and solid materials.

It's also changing how investigators do their jobs.

"We have one particular drug task force which has essentially changed the way that they handle these investigations," said Miles. "Treating them as homicide investigations if they come upon a scene and there is a death and that way they can work it like they were working a homicide and target the source of the person supplying the product.”

In 2007, the GBI lab tested 2,494 opioids. That jumped to 5,726 in 2016. There were 95 cases of Fentanyl in 2016.

In addition to being part of the state attorney general's opioid task force, the GBI is part of a new effort spearheaded by the Georgia Department of Public Health to bring together subject matter experts to come up with a statewide strategy to tackle the problem.

The opioid crisis is also a focus at the federal level for BJay Pak, the new U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

"It's an epidemic I've never seen before and it impacts everyone across the age and generation spectrum," said Pak.

It's an addiction that often starts with pain pills before addicts move to more dangerous drugs. Pak says they're putting doctors and pharmacists on alert.

"Everyone should be aware when they're dispensing or writing a prescription for or dispensing opiates we are carefully watching their activity and we will follow up on any leads."

He said there is also a focus on cracking down on traffickers such as Mexican cartels who are bringing heroin into Georgia.

"We’re looking to bring bigger indictments taking down the entire organization in the distribution chain and also to share our information with our neighboring states and districts to have a coordinated effort to take down these organizations bringing heroin to our districts.”

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