Updated: Jul 23, 2022
By Joe Johnson
Two Athens law enforcement agencies are teaming up to battle the spreading abuse of the deadly drug Fentanyl.
In a joint statement issued on Friday, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office announced a collaborative effort called SAFE, an acronym for Strategically Addressing the Fentanyl Epidemic.
So far this year, fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, has taken the lives of numerous members of the Athens-Clarke community, according to the joint statement, “and is increasing rapidly in severity with 67 percent of confirmed overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2022 so far.”
“We cannot arrest our way out of this,” interim Police Chief Jerry Saulters said.
“This epidemic impacts the community at large, we must work together to create effective and attainable solutions,” added District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez
The officials jointly said, “in regards to fentanyl our common goal is to save lives.”
According to the joint statement, as a first step in the SAFE Initiative Gonzalez and Saulters called together recovery organizations, harm reduction leaders, government officials, leaders in the faith community, healthcare providers, members of the justice system, individuals with lived experience, and community stakeholders. Who earlier this month listened to presentations on the impact of fentanyl in the community and then together to brainstormed possible solutions.
“DA Gonzalez and Chief Saulters will continue working together to create and execute actionable steps to address the harm fentanyl is causing in Athens-Clarke County.” according to the statement.
The announcement of the initiative came four days after police in nearby Gwinnett County issued an “Overdose Spike Alert”in the wake of 41 drug overdoses in a recent 18-day period