Emory, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation form ‘Addiction Alliance’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)
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.
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.