Editor's note: This article was updated at 4:00 p.m. April 12 to include overdose cases reported by Colquitt Regional Medical Center.
MOULTRIE, Ga. — An opioid addiction program announced this week by Valdosta State University identifies Colquitt County as a high risk area, but some local officials don’t share the view.
Josphine Chaumba, associate professor and program director of social work at Valdosta State University, has initiated the project called the “Development of South Georgia Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Consortium.”
The grant will fund planning meetings, surveys and interviews with individuals affected by substance abuse, residents and service providers, according to an article published by the Valdosta Daily Times. Along with Colquitt, the counties involved are Berrien, Coffee, Tift and Ware.
The selected counties were chosen after statistics were collected for regional counties and found those were the highest risk areas looking at factors such as number of lives lost in the counties and emergency room visits for overdoses, according to the VDT article.
However, Colquitt County Coroner Verlyn Brock told The Observer Friday that opioid overdoses here are “fairly rare.”
“These kinds of deaths always seem to come in some kind of wave,” Brock said. “In 2020 we saw more suicides than were normal but it’s been quite awhile since I remember seeing an opioid overdose come in. There’s usually other circumstances combined with the use of opioids that bring people to me.”
The coroner’s office labels victims of overdoses simply as “overdose,” therefore it is difficult to get accurate statistics on what drug was used.
Colquitt Regional Medical Center reported 24 opioid-related overdoses were seen in its emergency room in the last 12 months and 45 in the last 24 months.
Colquitt County law enforcement officers say they’re focused on other illegal drugs more than opioids, in part because guilt is easier to prove.
Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Channing McDowell of the city-county Drug Enforcement Team said methamphetamine seems to be the greater problem in Colquitt County.
“It’s harder to prove in court that somebody doesn’t have a prescription for opioids,” McDowell said, “but it’s a problem across the country, Colquitt County isn’t an exception. It’s just often overlooked because cases that involve drugs such as meth are so much more cut and dry and easier to prove in court.”
Turning Point, PCOM South Georgia and NAMI Moultrie — all based in Colquitt County — are participating in Chaumba’s project, along with agencies in the other affected counties.
Meanwhile, the Moultrie Police Department maintains a medication drop box in their lobby where you can safely discard old prescriptions, including opioids and other medicines.