Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield joined Bryan County community partners May 9 for an Opioid Education Forum at the Wetlands Education Center in Richmond Hill.

The Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce and the Bryan Prevention and Recovery Project hosted the event with the installation's Lisa Pokorny, Army Substance Abuse Program Employee Assistance Manager, joining representatives from local businesses, civic organizations and law enforcement to talk about the national opioid abuse issue, its affect in the local area and ways to help community members.

Dallas Daniel, BHBC Chamber of Commerce Chairman said he realized the opioid issue was hitting close to home following conversations with community members and local law enforcement agents and thought the chamber could provide a platform for community members to join together, learn more, and determine a way ahead to address the issue.
Mary Fuller, Bryan Prevention and Recovery project coordinator said legal opioids are prescribed to treat significant pain and include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. These drugs are chemically, the same as illegal opioids like heroin.

The Center for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov, reported more than 70,000 people died in U.S. in 2017 with more than 67.8%, 47,600, involving opioids, representing a 12% rate increase from 2016. About 1,000 of the 2017 death were from Georgia alone. Most in the 25-34 year-old age group.

Fuller said Bryan County's opioid prescribing rate is 82.3 per 100 people while 70.9 is the Georgia average. She added that Bryan County youth report misuse when in middle school at 210 per 10,000 and at high school that number increased to 450 of 10,000 which were both higher than the state average.

Fuller said that an estimated 66.2% of the self-report illicit opioid use were employed either part or full-time creating potential hazards at the workplace and potentially impacting worker's compensation claims.
She said individuals can help by talking to their doctors about what is being prescribed to them, only using the medicine as prescribed, and securing and disposing of medicine properly. She said businesses can help by becoming drug free workplaces, providing employee training and developing workplace polices that stop abuse but support recovery. One of the resources attendees noted was Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield benefited from a dedicated ASAP Employee Assistant Manager. Business representatives noted finding available resources and programs to help counseling and education was a challenge.

Pokorny shared information about the ASAP, as a commander's program, which included testing, education, risk reduction, and suicide prevention available to all active duty service members. She related services such as screening, assessment, short-term solution-focused counseling, referrals, liaison with referrals, on-site training and follow-up counseling, were available to all active duty dependents, DoD Civilians, retirees and their Families; adding veterans could also contact them for assistance.

Attendees expressed their appreciation for Fuller and Pokorny and other emergency responders in attendance for helping enlighten the community regarding the opioid issue and possible solutions. The chamber plans on holding future meetings to determine additional plans and resources. Community members are invited to follow the BCRH Chamber of Commerce on Facebook or online at www.rhbcchamber.org.