Column: Georgia Meth Project succeeding in advertising fight against drug

By Maria Saporta
Friday, June 24, 2011

The radio ads are agonizing to listen to — young people strung out on methamphetamine talking about how their lives have fallen apart after becoming addicted to the dangerous drug.

These are not actors. According to Jim Langford, executive director of the Georgia Meth Project, 23 kids in the state agreed to talk about their experiences in the radio ads — although names and places might have been changed.

The ads are targeted to prevent people from ever trying meth rather than urging those who are addicted to seek treatment. The drug is so powerful that only 5 percent of those who get addicted are able to be successfully treated.

Georgia is a national center for meth production, meth distribution and meth use. And that’s why the founder of the Meth Project — technology leader Thomas Siebel — came to Georgia in 2008.

Siebel met with then-Attorney General Thurbert Baker and a handful of business leaders to tell them about the success of the Montana Meth Project and to urge them to establish a campaign in Georgia.

Lee Shaw, a former executive of Shaw Industries, was in the room and agreed to champion the effort in Georgia. He then called Langford, convincing him to take on the project.

“We have raised more than $7.5 million, and we still have money coming in,” Langford said. Those funds have helped continue the radio ad campaign, which was launched in 2010.

One of the top donors has been the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, which gave $750,000 to help launch the campaign two years ago; and then renewed its commitment with another $750,000 grant in April.

“Meth is a devastating drug,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. “The Georgia Meth Project is a proven program being implemented in our state by Lee and Jim, two very capable leaders who deserve our support. We made a second grant based on the early success in Georgia, and confidence that Georgia will achieve results similar to those in Montana.”

The Georgia Meth Project just released a “Use & Attitudes” survey that showed the campaign is working.

The survey found out that 78 percent of teens said the ads made them less likely to try or use meth; and 85 percent said the ads showed them that meth is more dangerous than they had originally thought.

In announcing the results of the survey, Gov. Nathan Deal said Georgia’s methamphetamine problem costs the state more than $1.3 billion a year. Also, Langford said that as much as half the crimes in Georgia are related to meth in some way.

Langford has seen the problem firsthand. He helped raise a foster child, from ages 2 to 7, in his home because both her parents were in jail due to their meth addiction.

Major donors to the Georgia Meth Project include the PTJ Family Foundation, Shaw Industries, the Siebel Foundation, and the James M. Cox Jr. Foundation.

Energy education

Under the leadership of CEO Paul Bowers, Georgia Power Co. is launching a new statewide energy education initiative to target students in the third, fifth and eighth grades.

“This puts us back into the education arena,” said Bowers, who has made education one of his top priorities. “This is now an active arena for us, and it is here for the long term.”

Bowers said the goal is to increase the exposure of students in Georgia’s schools to math and science, using energy efficiency as the focus.

“We have hired 12 energy education coordinators around the state,” Bowers said. “We trying to develop informed decision-makers for the future.”

The educational curriculum will deliver energy-efficiency messages through in-class field trips, hands-on activities, Web-based learning and career awareness events.

Bowers said there also will be a pilot program for high school students, which could lead to a workforce development effort for Georgia Power. It also would expose them to possible careers in the electric utility industry and create well-informed future energy purchasers.

Georgia Power is collaborating with the State Board of Education as well as educators and stakeholders to develop and deploy the curriculum.

Jewish Federation campaign

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has put together its leadership team for its 2012 campaign.

Cathy Selig Kuranoff, an Atlanta community leader, will chair the 2012 Community Campaign, which will begin Sept. 1, 2011, and be completed in the spring of 2012. The theme of the 2012 campaign will be: “The Good We Do Is Up To You.”

Mark Rosenberg has been named vice chair of the 2012 Community Campaign. Rosenberg, a managing director with UBS Financial Services, said that he would like to leave a positive impact and legacy for the Jewish community.

This past year, the federation raised $14.8 million under the leadership of two campaign co-chairs — Joanie Shubin and Joel Marks.

The annual campaign helps support the federation’s 17 affiliate agencies as well as 60 community partners in Atlanta, Israel and around the world.

Clean air grant

The Clean Air Campaign recently received a $47,127 grant from the UPS Foundation to create an educational high school pilot program called: “Get There Green.” The Get There Green program is designed to educate students about green transportation in an effort to reduce air pollution.

It will be introduced in up to 20 metro Atlanta high schools during the coming academic year.

“Get There Green promotes critical thinking, collaboration, student leadership and ultimately an improved environmental outcome,” said Gretchen Gigley, director of education for the Clean Air Campaign. “We are grateful to UPS for this grant as it will allow us to continue to make strides in improving Georgia’s air quality and public health.”

The grant also will help expand the Clean Air Campaign’s “No-Idling” program. This will include developing best practices and policies for reducing unnecessary engine idling, providing “no-idle zone” signs and distributing educational materials on how idling causes air pollution.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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