Drug overdoses on the rise in Dougherty Co.

Drug overdoses on the rise in Dougherty Co.
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:24 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 8:04 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - National Overdose Day is used to remember those who’ve lost their lives to addiction but also to recognize those who are on the road to recovery.

Dougherty County leaders are addressing the rise in overdoses.

Dickie Livingston spoke about how many overdoses they respond to in Dougherty County.
Dickie Livingston spoke about how many overdoses they respond to in Dougherty County.(WALB)

Dickie Livingston with Dougherty County EMS said they are seeing an increase in overdoses. On average, they respond to a drug overdose every other day.

The lifesaver Narcan is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“So far this year, we’ve run 122 calls that we’ve had to use Narcan on, but it doesn’t always work,” said Livingston.

Out of the 122 calls they’ve had this year, Livingston said they’ve had to use 285 doses of Narcan meaning giving additional doses to patients.

“Whatever it is they’re using, it’s stronger. We can tell whenever there’s a new batch in town,” said Livingston.

Coroner Michael Fowler says overdose deaths are continuing to rise.
Coroner Michael Fowler says overdose deaths are continuing to rise.(WALB)

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said the deaths from overdoses are also on a rise. In 2015, there were five overdose deaths and in 2016 there were nine. Fast forward to 2021, there were 38 overdose deaths and 29 in 2022, with four months left in the year.

“I think we’re going to break that record we had last year. Every year, it’s getting worse and worse,” said Fowler.

The average age of those deaths is 25-44.

Albany Police Chief Michael Persley said they’re noticing that number getting younger and younger.

Police Chief Michael Persley said they use this day to support those struggling with addiction.
Police Chief Michael Persley said they use this day to support those struggling with addiction.(WALB)

“We as a community can’t let that happen. How do we support them more instead of shield them from things? Like how do we educate our younger generations,” said Persley.

One group dedicated to recovery is Aspire. Specifically, a branch of Aspire called the Change Center.

They offer support and guidance to those who need it.

Every day, the Change Center works to help people end their addiction. On Wednesday’s National Overdose Day, they took time to reflect on the lives lost.

Angela lost her son in December just a few days before his birthday. She said if you need help ask for it.

“I can’t believe he’s gone I can’t comprehend it,” said Angela.

She spoke about how much addiction affected not only her son, but her family. Asking that if you know someone struggling with addiction, show them love.

“I know sometimes you have to play tough love, but you got to let them know that you love them,” said Angela.

That love and support are exactly what got Daniel Fleuren on the road to recovery.

“After a lifelong addiction. About the time, I started getting everything back good and got comfortable that’s when things would kind of fall apart,” said Fleuren.

Fleuren has been sober for nearly five years now. Part of what helped was getting involved in Aspire, and helping open the Change Center.

“I was very passionate about that because my own personal recovery has taught me the only way to keep it is to give it away. That continuous contact with people in recovery is what keeps me sober,” said Fleuren.

Part of what makes the Change Center unique is everyone who works there is in long-term recovery helping them relate to what each person may be going through.

“It’s not about moral failing. It’s not a question of willpower, not a question of if they want to do better. It’s a constant struggle and the best way to overcome that is to be around like-minded people,” said Fleuren.

If you want to speak to someone about recovery, the Change Center is open Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The Aspire 24/7 crisis line is available at (229) 430-4140.