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Emory, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation form ‘Addiction Alliance’

Maria Saporta

By Maria Saporta

Emory University and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation have agreed to collaborate on an initiative to serve Georgians with addiction issues.

More than 150 Atlanta leaders attended a dinner at the Cherokee Town Club Wednesday night to learn more about the proposed collaboration and explore the next steps needed to create a comprehensive center to treat people suffering from addiction.

The initiative is being called the “Addiction Alliance of Georgia,” and it is aimed at reducing addiction rates, improving recovery outcomes, conducting research and saving the lives of Georgians. It will work to prevent and treat addiction to alcohol, opioids and other substances.

The issue was familiar to many in the room.

Tom Johnson, the retired president of CNN, has been one of community champions for the collaboration between Emory and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Tom Johnson, William Cope Moyers and Frank Boykin at the Feb. 5 dinner gathering at the Cherokee Town Club (Photo by Jennifer Johnson McEwen of the Emory Brain Health Center)

He became involved with the effort after meeting Frank Boykin, the retired CFO of Mohawk Industries, at OK Café in early 2018. Boykin told him how his son had battled heroin addiction and had to go out of state for treatment.

“Karen and Frank Boykin enabled me to see the dark side of addiction,” Johnson told people attending Wednesday night’s event. “There are 17 people in this room who have lost a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a husband, and in several cases, a grandchild.”

After several months exploring a potential partnership, Emory and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation announced their intent to move forward and seek philanthropic support.

“Harnessing the experience and strengths of the two leading institutions, the Addiction Alliance of Georgia will work to prevent and treat addiction to alcohol, opioids and other substances,” according to a statement issued by the two entities.

“The Alliance seeks to align with ongoing public and private efforts, while partnering with diverse stakeholders to provide comprehensive treatment and recovery support to both insured and underserved people in Atlanta and across Georgia. Emory and Hazelden Betty Ford will also work together to advance addiction-related education and research,” the statement continued.

Among the high-powered leaders attending the dinner were former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, and his wife Colleen; GE’s John Rice, and his wife Cammie; Jeff Sprecher of Intercontinental Exchange; Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen; former first lady of Atlanta Valerie Jackson; Robert W. Woodruff Foundation’s Russ Hardin; CNN journalist Sanjay Gupta; Robert Franklin, former president of Morehouse College; among others.

Many had attended a similar dinner in February 2018 to begin exploring a possible collaboration.

One of the keynote speakers Wednesday night was William Cope Moyers, a vice president with Hazelden Betty Ford.

Moyers said that 25 years ago, he had hit rock bottom when he was on the floor of a crack house near the corner of Ponce de Leon and Boulevard.

“I was ready to give up. I just wanted to die. My family, my employer – CNN and Tom Johnson, refused to give up on me,” Moyers said. “This community saved me.”

Several people in the room provided their own testimonials, heart-wrenching stories of family members they had lost to addiction and other inspirational stories from people who had overcome their addiction and went on to live successful lives.

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

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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    Rocky Hill MA, NCAC II, CADC II February 15, 2020 3:44 pm

    In Dec. 1980, I was “coerced”, into the only addiction treatment program available in Palm Springs. With a heavy protection of denial born of unimaginable fear, I agreed to do the thirty days (plus ten to address medical issues like pancreatitis, liver enlargement etc. My treatment never had a chance against the terror I faced in giving up ALL psychoactive substances. Thus, upon release, I drove to Thrifty’s , to purchased my pint of vodka and was on the road to an early death.
    My recovery roots are bound to the likes of Dr. Paul Ohliger, Dr. Joe Cruse, Anne Vance, Mark Greenberg, Marybell and Del Sharbutt along with many others that were instrumental in the creation of the Betty Ford Center.
    Three years later, I met my wife to be, at a conference at Eisenhower Medical Center. She was a Psychiatric charge RN for Charter Hospital and we elected to create addiction treatment programs in Zuni, NM and Walsenberg, Colorado. In 1987 we moved to Temecula, Ca., with my wife now in recovery too. We opened the first private free standing outpatient addiction program that year. Today, that baby, now, runs our program and has acquired the Tri-Care contract and multiple accolades from the community and law enforcement. Our efforts to spread medication assistance treatment program modalities has gained recognition, as well as, our efforts to call attention to the corruption, fraud and wrongful deaths in treatment facilities in our area.
    We began using buprenorphine for opiate dependence in 2004 and severed our very close ties with BFC, or vice versa. We have been one of eight affiliates of BFC and would welcome a closer relationship again.

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