A 2-year-old law is making it easier for doctors and pharmacists to guard against opioid abuse by their clients — although it's causing some frustration for patients with intractable pain.
One Rome man spoke passionately about his wife, who's living with an excruciating condition affecting her trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from the face to the brain. Their names are not being used due to the medication they keep in their home.
"Not everyone is abusing these powerful meds. Some are trying not to commit suicide because of the pain," he said.
The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program uses an electronic database to track prescriptions for controlled substances issued to patients statewide.
Since July 1, 2017, pharmacists have been required to file daily reports on the prescriptions they fill. Since mid-2018, doctors have been required to check the PDMP before prescribing opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and certain anxiety medications including Xanax and Diazepam.
"It exposes the patients' privacy to some degree, but used properly it's beneficial," said Keith Winslette, owner Winslette Pharmacy in Rome. "I want to know, if you walk in here for the first time, if you just got a prescription filled at Walgreens."
In his 40 years as a pharmacist, Winslette has seen the spike in
so-called pill mills and opioid prescriptions — and watched it start to ebb in recent years as lawmakers provided more tools. Through it all, the family-run pharmacy had its own rules for dispensing that helped stem the tide a little in Floyd County.
"It was abused back in the day. There were all kinds of pain clinics writing prescriptions for people from Florida, Tennessee. ... They'd send them to independent pharmacies, but we said no," Winslette said.
"We've always been very selective. We don't fill narcotics prescriptions for people out-of-town, or for doctors out-of-town," he added.
Winslette is listed among the top three pharmacies in Floyd County for filling opioid prescriptions between 2006 and 2012, according to federal data released in conjunction with a class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
But that, he said, is because they're among the top three pharmacies.
"We fill an average of 500 prescriptions a day, compared to 100 or 150 at other places. If you did a study on blood pressure pills or any other medication, we'd be at the top," he said.
The same holds true for local pharmacies listed for nearby counties, such as Bradford Drug Store in Cedartown and Trion Drugs.
"The numbers don't indicate these stores are attracting that kind of business. They're just the highest-volume store in their city," Winslette said.
They've been advocates for the database — aimed at eliminating duplicate prescribing — and he spoke highly of a recent rule that requires a urinalysis every three months for people on maintenance pain pills. The test not only checks the patient's health, it ensures they're actually taking the meds.
"Most customers you see in pain clinics today are legit," Winslette said. "But when you could sell a pill for $60, that's $3,000 or $4,000 extra a month for someone living on Social Security checks. That's kind of how it happened early on."
It's a complicated issue, however — both Winslette and the Rome man married to a chronic pain patient agree.
The man said he takes his wife to a doctor in Cobb County every month to have her prescriptions refilled, and they're constantly afraid each time may be the last. She's had brain surgeries to try to fight the pain, he said, and tried many types of pain medications.
The only ones that bring the slightest relief are strong opioids.
"Her doctor and other pain doctors are afraid they may lose their practice because of the climate we are in," he said. "My wife has a reason to take the meds, but we are very worried she won't be able to continue on them if the plight of this small group is not considered in the changes the government is making."
Winslette, whose sons are now pharmacists, too, said there's been a decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions as doctors become more cautious and seek out other options. Once marketed as fairly safe, it's clear the risk of addiction is real.
Overall, he said, the new tools are a boon to combating the opioid crisis.
"Sometimes you penalize innocent people doing that. But if you go to Atlanta and get a doctor to write a scrip for oxycodone, you need to get it filled in that area," Winslette said. "If I don't know that doctor, if my kids don't know that doctor, we're not going to fill it."
Cedartown commissioners got to provide input on a new ordinance coming soon to the city's code book that will allow for the potential for a business to sell cigars and more.
The goal is to regulate retail cigar stores that also allow for sales of alcohol by the drink, with the language of the proposed ordinance set to go before the city's Planning and Zoning Commission later this month before city commissioners will get a chance to vote on it themselves.
A public hearing in the Planning and Zoning Commission's forthcoming August 26 meeting at 10 a.m. is the next step after city officials have drafted the ordinance based on those from surrounding areas.
Assistant City Manager Edward Guzman said the ordinance was sought after an investor inquired about opening a cigar store in Cedartown and through a specific request made by Commissioner Jessica Payton.
"After doing some research from surrounding cities, we're basically
calling this the 'Old Havana' ordinance, because it basically follows the same requirements that the City of Rome has on Old Havana. Same for the City of Cartersville too," Guzman said. "This ordinance is written out where they don't have to sell food like our restaurants to sell alcohol, but the requirement is through cigar sales."
The new ordinance will require a 51 to 49 % split between tobacco and alcohol sales, with the larger share going toward tobacco sales. That includes hand rolled cigars, pipe tobacco, pipes, cigar cutters and other accessories in the sales — but not cigarettes.
Cigar shops under the ordinance would be allowed in either C-1 or C-2 zoning within the city, which would fall either in the historic downtown corridor or along North Main Street, South Main Street and East Avenue.
"We're hoping to try and attract someone to come downtown," Guzman said.
Guzman said the ordinance will allow for stores that open under the regulations to sell beer, wine and liquor by the drink but that it can't make up the majority of the sales. He brought the new ordinance before the commission during their August work session for discussion and review.
"Because there's a zoning decision involved in it, it will have to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission," he explained. "A second public hearing will be at the Commission meeting for September 9."
Currently the draft ordinance is under review and might see some minor changes before it is approved, Guzman said.
The Polk County Board of Education voted unanimously to go forward with efforts to turn over an older school bus now out of the fleet and give it a new lease on life and help teach children about the dangers of drugs.
The board voted unanimously at the recommendation of Superintendent Laurie Atkins to give up one of the few remaining surplus buses that haven't been sold to Polk Against Drugs, which seeks to bring to an end the sale and use of drugs in the community.
"This is really a positive thing for our county," Atkins said. "We've had the opportunity to purchase some new buses and take older ones off the road."
She said that several buses were sold at auction and others were picked up by those who placed bids for purchase once they were placed in surplus by the board in past months, but the one or two remaining in the surplus fleet was sought out at the request of Polk Against Drugs.
Atkins added that they wanted to know what might be a good way to help educate youth about the dangers of drugs, and the suggestion was made to follow the model provided by The Choice Bus.
"I talked to them about how it would have been nice to have The Choice bus come to our middle schools," Atkins said.
In short, older buses are converted on the inside to host students in seats like a classroom environment, but provide a real look at what happens when youth experiment and become addicted to drugs.
The Choice Bus even includes a mock jail cell to drive the point home.
It has been in Polk County before — way back in 2011 — and Atkins said because a bus was available and that Polk Against Drugs was amenable to helping with the conversion to have it on hand locally, the donation made sense.
"We won't have to rely on the availability of another bus," Atkins said. "We can allow our community to use it, our schools can use this bus."
Karen Nissen, a member of the Polk Against Drugs committee on drug prevention and education, explained that the bus will get a transformation to provide a setting for youth to tour and see for themselves the negative paths in life drugs will take people who use and abuse narcotics.
They have plans in the near future to tour The Choice Bus, created by the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, and have a foundation on which to build their own exhibits within to provide drug education. The foundation is a national non-profit that started in 2007 to help educators and community leaders provide drug education offerings, along with efforts to help reduce the dropout rate and increase graduates.
Facing the possibility of death can inspire people to do remarkable things.
In the case of Marty Raulins, the possibility he could lose a battle to cancer gave him motivation to tell a story of how he became entangled in one of the strangest occurances in over a century and a half of Polk County history.
He, along with several others, were the ones responsible for landing the infamous "Polk County Pot Plane" on a crude landing strip in the middle of nowhere, and in the process were caught by law enforcement and later turned loose because of a technicality.
This month is the 44th anniversary of the plane touching down in Polk County, and Raulins felt it was now time to share details of what happened and how he and the crew he put together to make it happen were able to get out of trouble decades ago.
A smuggler's dilemma
Drug trafficking is like any other business in one respect: it all comes down to money and time. How much profit can a person make off of a pound of marijuana and how much time will it take to get to customers is as much a problem as Coca-Cola has in keeping the margins low on carbonated sugar water in a can.
In Raulin's case, it started out as a way for him to be able to enjoy marijuana and make money at the same time. So at first he made a move to Florida — Boca Raton — to see how he might be able to do better than he was.
"I've always been a huge activist when it comes to the legalization of marijuana," he said. He was part of NORML, knew people who were part of the legal community around drug cases, and much more.
"I had a cousin that was always in trouble in South Georgia," Raulins said. "This wasn't the reason, I smuggled pot for money don't get me wrong. But my cousin from Hazelhurst, Georgia, he got in trouble down there. He saved his money and bought him a (Cor)vette, and came back. He smoked pot over there, and he got busted down there."
Though his older cousin wasn't exactly a model citizen, Raulins said the situation bothered him at the time and motivated him in part to try his hand.
"They kept throwing him in jail for these small amounts of pot," Raulins said. "He went to jail four or five times. But five years later, he was in court in Hazelhurst. I had a pilot and another guy who got busted down there too. They were first offenders and were busted with an airplane with 1,000 pounds of pot. They got probation. My cousin got five years for a DUI because of his previous little bitty amounts of marijuana."
Meanwhile, he and his friends were doing well in the business for themselves.
At the time, Raulins said he was able to turn over a pound of pot he bought in Atlanta for $300, and turn around and sell it in Manhattan for $1,000. Multiply that by hundreds of pounds and real profits can be made.
"I was making three or four times off of it than what I bought it for," Raulins said. "But it was periodic."
Those real profits could only come by way of finding a supplier who was able to provide hundreds of pounds at a time at a low cost.
When he got into smuggling at 24, the first thing he tried was to transport a load on a friend's sail boat, hoping to avoid the attention of authorities in the Caribbean.
"He wasn't already a dealer like me, he was a boat person," Raulins said. "We knew a guy that was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list who just sailed around the world all the time. He never got off his boat... They never could catch him because all he did was sail a load to the Bahamas, and drop it off and help the people get it and go. That's all he ever did."
That was the sail boat they used for their first load. It was a boring 45-day affair that once over, Raulins said he believed there must have been a better way. The problem at the time was a change in policy in the early days of the War on Drugs, where Coast Guard cutters were placed on station in the Caribbean between Mexico and South America to catch smugglers like his crew.
One positive that came out of his early days of smuggling was conenctions he made in Colombia to work on his own.
"Part of our pay was that we would get to meet the contacts," he said. "We didn't like being on that boat going six knots for 45 days."
That's when he concocted the idea of using a plane to bring in a big load all at once. To make it work, he would need some help.
His would be the seventh that came into the country in 1975.
A better way
Economies of scale are what make any business profitable, and the illegal drug trade is no different. The more product that can be pushed out for little expense compared to the large profits that are derived from its sale — either in bulk or in small quantities to consumer — is part of what motivates people to get involved in the sale of drugs like marijuana.
The sail boat took too long to get from one place to another, and was limited in the amount of weight it could carry due to the size of the interior.
Raulins figured out that bringing in a big load on a plane would be a good way to bring in a large load of marijuana at one time, and with the right combination of people, place and opportunity he could make a lot of money.
He brought in a friend from Michigan, and the two began to hatch the scheme. They would need a pilot that would be willing to take on the challenge of short landings, and they would need connections with people in Colombia to find growers that would fill the plane with marijuana.
"My friend Mike said 'that I know a pilot, let's go talk to him'," he said. "And Bob Eby, he's the kind of guy that if you had two rocks and a pencil, he'd make (it) fly."
Bob Eby made the first move by finding the group a plane they could fly. He traveled out west to a plane graveyard in Tuscon, Arizona where he found an old DC-4 he bought at auction that required some work to make it airworthy again.
Several days of work later, Eby had the plane designated as tail number N67038 up and running. He performed test flights to ensure that it would make it between Arizona, Colombia and back to Georgia.
Raulins, Eby and others loaded up the plane with gifts and a dune buggy that Eby used to get around in Tuscon while he worked on the plane, and took off for Colombia.
Return next week to read the conclusion of the story of how the DC-4 landed, what happened to Raulins and his crew, and how the plane left Treat Mountain.
Mark those calendars now for the Holloway Hunny Pot Festival and Artisan Market coming up on Sept. 7 in Cedartown. The day is scheduled for Big Spring Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information regarding vendor spots for the forthcoming event, contact Aimee Madden at email@example.com or by calling 770-748-3220. Reminder: the application deadline is this Friday.
The Cedartown-Polk County Humane Society is hosting a low cost rabies clinic coming up in Rockmart at the Hogue Gym at 436 Hogue Ave., Rockmart on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cats and Dogs are $10 each. Other services like embedding a microchip in pets for $10, and Precious Paws will be on hand for nail trimming for $5. All proceeds go to the Humane Society.
Spooky Spokes is coming to Cedartown on October 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Bert Wood Youth and Athletic Complex! Civic clubs, community organizations and more are invited to take part in the bike ride and Halloween Village. Find out more by calling the city at 770-748-3220.
Get ready for the 45th annual Flea Market at Cedartown First United Methodist Church coming
up Friday, September 6 and Saturday, September 7 in Cedartown. Times are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The sale will feature house wares, furniture, clothing for all ages and sizes, toys, books and much more. Call the church at 770-748-7862 to learn more.
Join us for the second annual PolkX Leadership Expo on Saturday, August 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Polk County College and Career Academy located at 167 Frank Lott Drive in Cedartown, Georgia. This Expo will provide attendees with networking sessions, workshops and the opportunity to speak with professionals to help enhance leadership practices. Lunch will be included. Cost is $25 for Chamber members and $50 for non-Chamber members.
The Polk Gathering is sponsored by the Polk County Historical Society and is directed by Spivey McIntosh. The first Gathering of the People event is scheduled for September 20 through 22, 2019 at the Polk County Fairgrounds, located behind the Polk County Police Department off the Highway 27 bypass in Cedartown. Hours for the event begin 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Call 770-862-4188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Visit polkgathering.com to find out more about the event. Sponsors, vendors and advertisers are being sought.
The Cedartown Farmer's Market has a new location and time for the 2019 season. Market-goers are invited to come out to the corner of Ware and South Main Street in Cedartown continuing on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. Contact Five Cedars Farm to participate at 678-246-1216 to learn more about becoming a vendor.
Join Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church to celebrate their annual Men and Women's Day program at 194 East Point Road on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 3 p.m. The Rev. Susan H. Buckson of the Allen Temple AME Church of Atlanta will be the guest speaker. For more information call 470-370-3290.
RCAC has classes for toddlers, children and adults at the Rockmart Cultural Arts Center in drawing, painting, photography, yoga, chorus, piano, whittling, and pottery. For more information, call 770-684-2707 or email email@example.com
Give a child a safe place to go after school and learn valuable lessons about community, life and academics by getting involved in the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Georgia in Cedartown. Visit their center at 321 E. Queen St., Cedartown from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and bring your children ages 5-18 for afternoon activities. For more information on how to participate or volunteer, call our office at 770-749-0869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rockmart History Museum on South Marble Street in downtown Rockmart is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Museum welcomes visitors and group tours. Contact Pat Sampson at 678-764-5201 for information. RHM meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month and volunteers are welcome and encouraged to take part.
Interested in becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent? Open your heart to a child in need and find out how you can help. Join others who seek the love of a child every second Tuesday night of each month at 6 p.m. at Polk County Division of Family and Children Services office, 100 County Loop Road in Cedartown. Information sessions explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in Georgia. For more information call Robin Forston at 404-895-6517 or email robin. email@example.com or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.
The Polk County Democratic Committee Meets on the second Saturday of every month at 9:30 a.m. In the "even" months (February, April, June, August, etc.) the organization meets at The Rockmart Library at 316 N. Piedmont Ave., Rockmart and during the "odd" months (January, March, etc.) they meet at the Cedartown Welcome Center, 609 Main St., Cedartown, GA 30125.
The American Legion in Rockmart is hosting their monthly all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner coming up this Wednesday, August 21. Meal of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic toast and salad, $5. They hold dinners on the third Wednesday of every month. Join the group for a good meal and to support veteran and children's programs. The Legion is located at 1 Veterans Circle, Rockmart.
USAPA Pickelball Ambassador Daneen England is holding a free pickleball clinic every Monday (weather permitting) from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rockmart Tennis courts, located at 436 Hogue Avenue, Rockmart. Loaner paddles and all necessary equipment will be on hand to learn t he sport. This is a free event for anyone and they just need to wear comfortable gym clothes and tennis shoes. Contact England at 770-356-1282, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The office of Exceptional Students of Polk School District is available to assist with the identification of children with disabilities and provision a free appropriate public education beginning at the age of three through the age of 21. If you suspect your child is experiencing any developmental delay or you suspect your child might have a disability and would like assistance or for more information about services available through Polk School District, contact the PSD Exceptional Student Services office at 770-684-8718.
Lutheran Services of Georgia's Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia's foster care system. Information Sessions are held on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Rome Office, located at 336 Broad St., Suite 200. Individual sessions may be scheduled to accommodate families as needed. For more email email@example.com or call 706-506-0649.
Did you know that nationwide the American Red Cross assists 53 people every 60 seconds during personal and local disasters? Our Northwest Georgia Red Cross Chapter serves Polk County. If you'd like to do some meaningful volunteering, please contact Arthene Bressler at 762-231-9896 and visit our website at www.redcross.org/local/georgia.
Save the date: The Boys and Girls Club of NWGA is hosting a Polk County Golf Tournament on Friday, Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. at the Cherokee Golf and Country Club. Find more information at bgcnwga.org or call 706-234-8591.
Do you think you might be pregnant? You can know for sure. Contact Life Matters Outreach today to schedule a free pregnancy test. You have a right to know all the options available to you. We offer free evidencebased education and resources so that you can make a well-informed decision. The services provided at LMO Pregnancy Care Center are free of charge. Clients are treated with respect and unconditional acceptance. We are here to help YOU. Call 770-748-8911 for more information.
Anna Kresge Memorial United Methodist Church will be sponsoring a clothing bank for children ages infant to 5 years old on the first Thursday of each month beginning in September from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the conference room of One Door Polk in Cedartown. Contact 770-748-6811 for more information on how to donate or participate in the giveaway.
Victory Baptist Church's Bread of Life Food Pantry is now open. One bag of nonperishable food, five items to pick from produce, eggs and milk and two items from frozen meats, breads and others will be available. ID is required. Limit of two IDs per address. Regular hours are Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.; and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m.
Community Share Ministries is hosting "Hope for the Hungry" on the first Tuesday of every month to provide food assistance to the community. They'll be in town again on Tuesday, June 4. Food is provided free of charge, and no identification is required to get help. Those interested can visit Community Share Ministries Cedartown thrift store at 1116 N. Main St., Cedartown.
The Georgia Legal Services Program's Claire Sherburne will be on hand at One Door Polk in Cedartown every fourth Monday to help those in need with free civil legal services to low-income persons. This will include all cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, healthcare and other issues involved in the legal complications of everyday life. Call 404-206-5175 for more information.
The Polk County Alzheimer's Caregiver Support group will meet monthly on the first Monday at 11 a.m. at Polk Medical Center. Those interested can join for fellowship and lunch in the cafeteria. For more information call John Giglio at 678-246-8188.
Aragon First United Methodist Church offers a food pantry for the community to use if they need assistance. They are open Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A picture ID is required to participate. Call 770-684-4855 for more information.
Celebrate Recovery meets every Monday night at the First Baptist Church of Rockmart starting with dinner at 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Large Group at 7 p.m. and Small Share Group at 8 p.m.
Soup and Savior, a local nonprofit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people. This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd. in Cedartown. Donations are accepted.
Just Us Ministries Inc. Food Bank has distribution every Tuesday and Thursday at 904 Young Farms Road in Cedartown. On Tuesday the distribution is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A picture ID is required. For more information call 770-687-1009 or 678-901-3354, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Justusministries.com.
A caregivers support group meets on the second Mon-
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