For The Record

September statewide bus tour set to draw attention to resources that support Georgians struggling with addiction

By: - August 17, 2023 7:35 pm

Mobilize Recovery Across Georgia tour bus is making 48 stops across the state to raise awareness about long-term addiction recovery. Members of the community will be encouraged to sign their name on the bus to show solidarity.

A convoy of behavioral health care groups is hitting the road for a statewide bus tour in time for national recovery month in September. 

At a press conference this week, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities announced they are partnering with the Georgia Council for Recovery and the Clinton Foundation for a 48-stop bus tour aiming to raise awareness for the over 800,000 Georgians living in long-term recovery. 

“This bus tour is for them and to celebrate them and their families,”said DBHDD Commissioner Kevin Tanner. “It is an honor to stand with the Georgia recovery community and their families, support these programs and to provide funding to address this important medical issue.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, drug overdose deaths in the state increased by about 62% from 2019 to 2021. The increase is partly due to the rise of opioid overdose deaths

Addiction affects all community members, and the goal of Mobilize Recovery Across Georgia is to bring the community together to uplift and support those overcoming substance abuse or living with a mental disorder, said CEO of Substance Use Disorders and Recovery at the Clinton Foundation, Chris Thrasher. 

“We lost over 109,000 lives to drug overdose. 109,000 lives lost in one year equates to 300 lives lost every single day,” Thrasher said. “But more important than these numbers is the reality that these are our mothers and our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters, our husbands and wives. Our community members.”

The Clinton Foundation will be rolling out the Overdose Aid Kit (OAK) Program through the bus tour program.

In addition to regular rally stops, where people gather together and get educated on recovery, through Mobilizing Recovery Across Georgia, the Clinton Foundation will be rolling out the Overdose Aid Kit (OAK) Program.

Building off of the foundation’s existing program, the goal of the program is to distribute overdose kits that include Naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

“The OAK Program is a brand new Clinton Foundation initiative that will work to get Naloxone into as many businesses, schools, government agencies and households as possible through the installation of these boxes,” Thrasher said.

The OAK program originated under the opioid risk management response created by Serve You Rx, a pharmacy benefit management service, and is also one of the partners sponsoring the bus tour.

“We’re confident that (the Clinton Foundation) will amplify the OAK mission which is delivering life-saving Naloxone to those who need it and meeting them where they are in their communities without shame or stigma,” said Justin Jasniewski, CEO of Serve You RX.

Vonshurii Wrighten, a faith leader at River of Life AME Church in Snellville, and the department’s coordinator of addictive diseases initiatives, said that funding for the bus tour comes from federal dollars through the Substance Abuse Medical Services Administration. That allows the state to move the needle on the issue of addiction, he said.

The department’s Community Outreach Manager, Jeff Breedlove, said that he and other recovery advocates are proud to be mobilizing recovery efforts and breaking the stigma on substance abuse and mental disorder recovery. 

“We’re going to college campuses, we’re going to county courthouses and city halls. And I just got a little bit emotional because so many people are coming together in a bipartisan manner,” Breedlove said.

The tour bus will make a special appearance at the Overdose Awareness Day First Responders Gala on Aug. 31, before the official 10 a.m. kick off at Liberty Plaza the next day, before making its second stop in Savannah.

“Recovery makes a lot of things possible that are just simply nonstarters when clouded by addiction,” Thrasher said. “People return to work, they resume relationships, families get reunited, and individuals regain control of their own life decisions, and ultimately, they become productive and responsible members of society.” 

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Aaleah McConnell
Aaleah McConnell

Aaleah McConnell covered the Georgia Capitol as an intern for the Georgia Recorder. She covered the Georgia General Assembly in 2022, focusing primarily on voting rights and higher education. With a background in podcast producing, Aaleah is opening the platform up to offer engaging and listenable coverage of the 2023 legislative session.