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Number of opioid related overdose deaths rise in Floyd County

The number of opioid-related deaths in Floyd County rose in 2020 when compared with 2019 totals, Georgia Department of Public Health reports show.

In both years Floyd County’s opioid-related death rate was just above state average when factoring in the county’s population.

In order to provide a baseline for counties and areas with varying populations, the state calculates the rate per 100,000 people. Statewide, the average is 12.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

With a population near enough to that 100,000-mark, Floyd reported 15 opioid-related deaths in 2020 compared to 11 in 2019. That figure is over the state average, but it’s under the 10-county Northwest Health District rate of 16.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

For comparison, in 2020 there were seven stimulant related deaths in Floyd County. Of those, four were a combination of opioid and a stimulant. The number of stimulant related overdose deaths has remained fairly flat over the past three years.

Overdose deaths rise district-wide

In 2019 the health district reported 80 opioid related deaths. That number rose to 116 in 2020 — a 45% increase.

That opioid death rate has been buoyed primarily by fentanyl-involved overdoses, with the number of deaths specifically linked to the drug doubling in the past three years.

However, fentanyl accounts for a relatively low number of emergency department visits, according to the DPH data.

The Northwest Health District is comprised of Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker counties.

A majority of counties in the health district were above the state average of opioid-related deaths, with the exception of Gordon and Murray counties.

Gordon County, with a population of just over 55,000, reported three opioid related deaths in 2020 and Murray County, with a population of just over 40,000, reported two.

While the trend of opioid related deaths went up across the Northwest Health District, the rise wasn’t as severe as in several metro-Atlanta counties where the number of deaths doubled or tripled.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the number of fentanyl-involved deaths doubled from 2019 to 2020 in Georgia. The state’s public health agency records show that the drug killed 803 Georgians in 2020, compared with 392 in 2019.

Looking at the data for 2019 alone, there were 17 drug overdose-related deaths in Floyd County and 11 of those were opioid-related. Of those, six deaths were linked to fentanyl and three to heroin.

In four years, public health records show the number of opioid related deaths in Floyd County tripled from five in 2017 to 15 in 2020.

Arrowhead Environmental Education Center status in limbo

After a longtime partnership agreement with the county school system was ended, the regional Department of Natural Resources is working to find funding for the Arrowhead Environmental Education Center.

The facility opened in 1994 as a partnership between the DNR and Floyd County Schools. This year the school system decided to reassign its director, Vivian Davis, to a classroom position for the 2021-2022 term.

Located on the grounds of the DNR Region One complex in Floyd Springs, the center has operated for the past 28 years with the director’s post funded by the county schools.

The center functions in two ways: hosting field trips from the schools on one hand, then taking animals from the center out into the schools at the request of teachers.

Floyd County Board of Education Chairman Tony Daniel said the decision was based on a recommendation from Superintendent Glenn White.

Tony Daniel

“He’s been doing a great job of finding ways to conserve taxpayer money,” Daniel said of the superintendent. “We felt like that position would be better used in the classroom.”

The Floyd County school system continues to face a financial dilemma stemming from declining enrollment and has been consolidating schools for several years. Signs went up just this week promoting an absolute auction sale of the former McHenry Primary School property on July 29.

“This has been a good relationship for 28 years but our focus is on the classroom,” White said.

Region One Game Management Supervisor Brent Womack said Tuesday they want to keep the facility open even without the partnership.

Daniel said the community has other resources, such as the Rome-Floyd County ECO Center in Ridge Ferry Park, where students can go to learn about nature.

Doug Walker 

Brent Womack

The partnership was set up for the school system to fund the director position, including benefits, and DNR grants taking care of the building and grounds as well as transportation.

The local chapter of Trout Unlimited has contributed close to $100,000 to the center through grants over the past 20 years.

“Getting children interested in any natural science coincides with our mission,” said Robert Bold, president of the Coosa Valley TU Chapter.

The DNR nongame program has also contributed a $26,000 grant, which helps fund a part-time position at the center.

Terrell Shaw is a retired Floyd County teacher who has served as a part-time storyteller and naturalist at the center. He said he will still be available for programming on a limited basis.

“Learning in the context of the real world around us sticks, and there’s good research for that,” Shaw said. “When you have kids getting out into the real world around them and they are observing, they are measuring ... They want to write about what they’ve done, they want to research about what they’ve seen. That’s learning that sticks.”

An example of that approach to education occurred with Armuchee Elementary School’s green tree frog project.

“That was born out of Arrowhead and Armuchee Elementary working together,” Shaw said.

The kids were out at Arrowhead learning that Georgia had a state bird, a state reptile and so forth. A child asked what the state amphibian was and they discovered there wasn’t one.

Doug Walker 

Vivian Davis, director of the Arrowhead Environmental Education Center, holds a green tree frog, which is now the state amphibian thanks to a campaign by students at Armuchee Elementary School and the Arrowhead center.

The students worked to get support from then state senator Preston Smith and, after three years of work, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation creating the green tree frog as the state amphibian in 2005.

“They researched amphibians. Then they had to research how a bill becomes state law,” Shaw said. “Those kids learned so much from that.”

During the COVID-19 shutdown of schools, the center provided some digital learning programs to students all over the county. The center was able to reach more than 4,700 students during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

“The main thing I want everybody to understand is that DNR is committed to maintaining the environmental educational opportunities here,” Womack said.

DJ Smith, a student at Model Elementary School

Rome IS .. collaborative marketing campaign to illustrate Rome's social and economic diversity

Rome and Floyd County are in the final stages of rolling out a new collaborative marketing plan, dubbed “Rome IS.”

The Rome Floyd Chamber, the Downtown Development Authority, the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority, the Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism, the city of Rome and Floyd County are all partners in the project, which is designed to promote the community to the rest of the world.

Management at V3 Magazine, contracted to put the campaign together, brought together a number of focus groups. The goal: come up with a versatile campaign that would unite around a common theme yet be able to reach a very diverse audience.

The campaign will be launched primarily through social media and video streaming services, where marketing videos can be targeted to specific demographic audiences. Mini infomercial-type video advertising is being produced for placement.

The website for Rome IS, WhyRomeIs.com, will go live on July 16. It will feature a series of topical links for fun and adventure, housing, job opportunities, education and a fifth one tentatively called collaborative.

The site will also include a series of slides that promote the diversity of Rome and Floyd County.

For example, one slide features Burt Reynolds at the Rome International Film Festival a couple of years ago and is called “Rome IS Cinematic.” It will contain a direct link to the RIFF website.

A slide that goes with “Rome IS Industry” shows a forklift hauling hundred of cans made at the Ball Corporation facility in Shannon.

Aundi Lesley, Rome DDA director

Chris Forino, with V3, explained that the website will include a strong emphasis on the social and economic diversity in the community as well as the growing number of young professionals operating small local businesses.

“The whole idea is just to capture multiple audiences and effectively tell our story,” said DDA Director Aundi Lesley Tuesday. “We just get trapped in our own little silos and this is a collaborative effort to show off our community together.”

Missy Kendrick

The initial thrust of the campaign will be to target audiences across the southeast. In large metro areas such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Chattanooga and Nashville, the campaign can be tracked easily to see what particular aspects of it may be more effective than others.

“This is a perfect way to showcase our community and track our next generation,” said Missy Kendrick, president of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority.

The budget for the marketing campaign has been set at $15,000 and is being paid for by the Rise & Thrive 2025 business and government partners with the chamber.

“I think that’s the great thing about this website — you can go to it for anything,” said Amber West, communication director at the chamber. “You want to come for college? You want to start a business? It gets you to where you want to go.”

Rain likely through rest of the week, no impact expected locally as Tropical Storm Elsa brushes Georgia

While Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to cross into Georgia later this week, the heavy rains and high winds associated with the storm aren’t likely to affect the northwest region.

“It looks like it’s going to stay mostly in south and central Georgia,” said Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Herrington.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not expecting wet weather for the rest of the week.

The National Weather Service is predicting rain showers likely through Sunday with a high chance of rain each day. While the chance of severe weather is low in this area, there is always a chance, a Georgia Power public serve announcement stated.

That PSA gave tips for severe weather preparedness:

Before a storm: Know your risks of flooding and tropical storm or hurricane strength winds. Check your emergency kit, unplug major appliances and charge cell phones in case you lose power.

During a storm: Have several ways to receive emergency notifications and weather updates. Take safe shelter inside a sturdy building away from windows and doors. Avoid contact with conductors of electricity — appliances, metal objects and water.

After a storm: Never touch any downed or low-hanging wire, including telephone or TV wires that touch a power line. Never pull tree limbs off power lines or enter areas with debris or fallen trees as downed power lines may be buried in wreckage. Additionally, do not walk or drive through standing water or step onto saturated ground where downed lines may be present.

After the storm safety tips:

Watch for downed wires. Downed power lines may be hidden by debris or fallen trees.

Never touch any downed wire or attempt to remove tree branches from power lines – it can kill.

Don’t step in standing water or saturated ground where downed lines may be present. They could be electrified.

Avoid chain link fences. They may be electrified by a downed line out of sight and conduct electricity over great distances.

Watch for Georgia Power crews working across the state. If driving, move over one lane for utility vehicles stopped on the side of the road – it’s the law in Georgia.

Protect electronics and appliances. Disconnect or turn off any appliances that will start automatically when power returns to avoid overloading circuits when power is restored.