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Police: Dogs sniff out over three pounds of meth

Cindy Marie Sharpe

Floyd County and Rome police dogs sniffed out a cache of 3 pounds, 5.8 ounces of meth during a traffic stop on Alabama Highway.

After Cindy Marie Sharpe was pulled over at the Citgo near Woods Road, Sgt. Shea Hovers with the Floyd County Police Department said he and a Rome police officer were asked by the Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force to have their dogs check out the car.

At first, Rome police Pfc. Josh Glover’s canine Ash alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. They searched it but found nothing, so Hovers had his canine Lt. Lex take a sniff.

“Sometimes the dogs will indicate on a residual odor,” Hovers said.

That wasn’t the case Wednesday afternoon. They looked a little more and noticed a plastic bag containing a gallon bag in the trunk. And that bag contained over 3 pounds of methamphetamine — police valued the drugs at over $160,000.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Sharpe, 62, of 639 Elliot Drive, remained in jail without bond Thursday, charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and trafficking methamphetamine.

She is also charged with misdemeanor failure to maintain a single lane.

Homeless task force develops into new phase, United Way offers to fund leadership position

Under a plan unveiled Thursday, Rome’s Homelessness Task Force is being transformed into the Interagency Council on Poverty & Homelessness and will be headed up by a full-time coordinator funded by the United Way of Rome and Floyd County.

This development was revealed at Thursday’s monthly task force meeting by United Way Executive Director Alli Mitchell in a typed document distributed with the agenda.

“As a local nonprofit organization dedicated to driving and supporting collaborative solutions to complex challenges no one agency can address alone, the United Way wishes to offer a permanent home for our community’s work toward addressing and ending poverty & homelessness as a defined Social Change Initiative under our Community Impact Model,” the document stated.

It also explained the United Way would provide the 501(c)3 status for the group and direct a minimum of 50% of future Community Impact Grant funding to programs prioritized by the future Interagency Council.

It was United Way’s volunteer Community Impact Grants selection committee that made the decision to fund seven specific programs of five local agencies over the next two years with a total of $370,000 — instead of funding local homeless shelters directly, Mitchell explained later.

Some took exception to the changes in the United Way funding model. Hospitality House for Women Executive Director Lynn Rousseau stood up to take issue with the decision not to award shelters the grants for the next funding cycle.

“All of the agencies recognize United Way had to make some hard choices,” Rousseau said to the group of about 45 nonprofit and community leaders. “My concern is that this plan was developed with none of the providers at the table. It feels off a little bit. The allocations process provided zero funds to any shelter. Zero to Open Door, Davies Shelters, Salvation Army and Hospitality House. It’s really hard for me to sit here and accept this when United Way is not in line with homeless providers. We’re already struggling.”

Mitchell explained after the task force meeting that because there are several different agencies sheltering homeless populations in Rome, the grant selection committee felt it couldn’t choose among them and instead made the decision to allow the community as a whole to decide how to fund the shelters through the formation of the Interagency Council.

“All the missions are worthy,” Mitchell said. “We can say that 50,000 times. We need the nonprofits we have to communicate really well and they’re already doing that. We want to support that and make it easier for them by putting our money where our mouth is and saying ‘Here. Collaborate and let us know what the funding priorities should be.’”

Mitchell told the task force she’d like to see longtime local activist Cathy Aiken Freeman take the Interagency Council coordinator position.

Rome-Floyd County Community Kitchen Executive Director Drew Taylor gave Freeman a strong endorsement.

“I’ve known Cathy for 10 years and you won’t find anyone better for this position,” Taylor said to the group.

Rome City Manager Sammy Rich stressed that the formation of an Interagency Council was the first thing that went by the wayside during the fight against homelessness in 2009 and that was most likely the reason that effort failed then.

So to Rich and other city leaders praying this revived effort is successful, the creation of the council is vital. And he had news for those in attendance Thursday.

“You all, this is the Interagency Council right here. You and you and you are the council,” he said before every hand went up after he asked who was in agreement.

An agreement was made before a closing prayer to allow a small group of volunteers to work on getting the council established with United Way’s nonprofit status and putting Freeman in place as the coordinator before the group meets again on a yet-to-be determined date in January.

Hearings on health care waivers draw those concerned about work requirements, coverage

The father of a Rome woman with mental health issues, a Harbin oncologist and a director of Rome homeless shelters all walked into a hearing.

But there wasn’t anything funny about their reasons for being there.

“I was at the hearing about Medicaid expansion because the way it has been designed, it may cut out most if not all of my guests,” Davies Shelters Director Devon Smyth said Thursday after attending the Georgia Pathways to Coverage 1115 Demonstration Waiver public comment session at The Well at West Rome Baptist Church.

Designed to create “a new eligibility pathway focused on encouraging and incentivizing work and other employment-related activities for low-income Georgians,” the 1115 waiver also is said to support self-sufficiency by requiring recipients to pay a monthly premium for the coverage.

The Medicaid expansion option for states offered through the Affordable Care Act in 2012 covers anyone with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level — or about $12,500 per year for an individual — without a work requirement and at no monthly cost.

Georgia is one of 14 states that has not fully expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

Supporters of full Medicaid expansion estimate it would cover about 500,000 Georgians. The governor’s office envisions the 1115 waiver program would cover more than 52,000 people in its fifth year.

The lone lawmaker at the hearings Thursday, State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said Harbin Clinic oncologist Missy Dillmon’s testimony about cancer patients being unable to meet the program’s work requirements is something worth noting.

“Some cancer patients might be too sick to meet the requirements,” Dempsey said. “I know I’ve heard from people who care for a loved one who are not able to qualify and it’s hard. But some great work has gone into these proposals and we have to begin somewhere and that’s the most important thing.”

The Section 1332 Waiver that would allow Georgia to create its own health insurance exchange, get out from under certain requirements of the ACA and utilize insurance brokers for enrollment assistance also had a public comment session Thursday in Rome.

Other than two ACA advocates who testified against much of the plan, longtime local resident Jim Moore shared his concerns about losing coverage and provider options for his daughter if there isn’t more mental health parity in the system.

He said when his daughter was diagnosed two months ago with anorexia — her seventh mental health disorder — they were unable to find anyone to help her locally.

“She ended up at Johns Hopkins for five weeks at $1,900 per day,” he said. “I’d like to see Georgia move closer to federal parity legislation. Any further loss of protection for the mentally ill will make it harder to shop for comprehensive coverage.”

The last of the six hearings on the two waivers will be in Kennesaw on Friday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m. in North Cobb Regional Library, 3535 Old 41 Highway. Written comments may be submitted through Dec. 3 online at Medicaid.Georgia.gov/patientsfirst or by mail to Ryan Loke, c/o The Office of the Governor, 206 Washington St., Suite 115, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334.

Marshall Owens, a second-grader at East Central Elementary School

'Still work to be done' on opioid lawsuit settlement, Rome attorney says

Talk about a potential settlement of a case against the manufacturers and distributors of opioids brought by cities and counties across the nation may be putting the cart before the horse.

Rome attorney Andy Davis, who represents several jurisdictions in Northwest Georgia in the class action lawsuit, stressed that a federal judge in Ohio has solely certified a national settlement class in the event that a final settlement is reached.

Cities and counties across the nation have until the end of the business day Friday, to opt out of the class action suit and perhaps go it alone.

Rome and Floyd County officials have said they’ll stay in.

As a multi-district case, the suits were assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, Ohio, because that was the epicenter of the crisis in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

Polster has been the subject of controversy because he has spoken out about the case and several of the pharmaceutical defendants sought unsuccessfully to have him removed.

In trying to resolve the cases, Polster certified the national settlement class — which includes the Northwest Georgia plaintiff group: Rome, Floyd County, Whitfield County, Chattooga County and the city of Cartersville.

Davis said there’s no hard offer on the table yet, just a distribution formula. He said that typically when a settlement is proposed, “there is already a dollar-figure that is calculated, there is already an amount the attorneys know they are going to get. They know what the expenses are going to be and pretty much know what each claimant will get. This is pretty unique.”

Several of the defendant distributors and manufacturers have already appealed it, according to Davis.

“Everything is still in flux right now. There isn’t any national settlement,” he said. “There is a settlement class to try to get to that point.”

In a presentation to the Rome Rotary Club, Davis said that Americans have an instinctive desire to trust people from whom they seek help. Specifically in this case, patients trusted doctors and doctors trusted the drug companies to provide the chemicals in the medicine in order to help their patients.

“It was this trust that led us into where we are today with an opioid epidemic,” he said.

Davis explained that three Sackler brothers bought Purdue Pharma — as a patent for a drug that was used in conjunction with end-of-life pain relief for cancer patients was about to expire — and developed a new drug that would protect their patent. The result was Oxycontin.

“It was marketed for all kinds of chronic pain. It was claimed to be safe and reliable with addiction rates of less than 1%,” Davis said.

The attorney explained, around 1996 the medical community added pain as a fifth vital sign, in addition to temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate during routine check-ups.

“Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers, and the distributors took advantage of this pain vital sign and began to market more and more about how they had come up with the miracle drug,” Davis said. “Others saw what they were doing and decided to make some money as well.”

The opioids led people to seek other ways, if not through a prescription, to get the drugs. He said that in some parts of the country, opioids evolved into their own form of currency

When the tobacco settlement was reached years ago, states got all the money and local communities saw very little of the money. According to Davis, that prompted these opioid lawsuits by over 2,000 cities and counties that experienced loss of productivity, increased court usage, an increase in jail population, an increase in homelessness leading to the need for more and more social services.

He said state attorneys general want control of the money but the cities and counties want control of the disbursements.

“The projection is that the state would get 15%, the cities and counties would get 15% and then 70%, the judge is trying to say, should go back to the local communities for treatment,” he said.

Under the formula for every billion dollars in the settlement, Rome would get around $64,000 and Floyd County would get $171,000, Davis said.

“There is still work to be done, problems still exist,” Davis said.

He doesn’t expect any kind of final settlement before the end of 2020.