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Reporter’s Notebook: Atlanta Falcons No. 1 in fans’ gameday experience, GA making progress on treating addiction, track replacement on MARTA’s Red Line

The week in local news.

It’s been a dark, rainy winter around the city lately but in one week, Atlantans will know whether to hunker down for another month-and-a-half of cold or celebrate spring’s early return. 

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Georgia’s most famous groundhog — General Beauregard Lee — will venture out of his hole to either see his shadow or not, thus making his prediction for a long winter or early spring. This year marks the 136th anniversary of Groundhog Day, which originated in Punxsutawney, Pa.

On to other news from around the city and metro area:

First Atlanta Falcons game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 26, 2017 – the official opening day. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Atlanta Falcons No. 1 in fans’ gameday experience

The National Football League has released its annual “Voice of the Fan Survey,” an analysis of the fan experience at all NFL stadiums based on surveys throughout the season.

The Atlanta Falcons earned the best “Overall Gameday Satisfaction” in the NFL. 

Atlanta also ranked first in 14 categories, including No. 1 in “Family-Oriented Entertainment,” No. 1 in “Overall Gameday Staff,” No. 1 in “Overall Stadium Technology” and No. 1 in “Overall Food & Beverage.” 

“One of the core values that Arthur Blank has instilled in our organization’s culture is to obsessively listen and respond to our fans and customers, and we can’t thank you enough for all the feedback you have given,” Atlanta Falcons President Greg Beadles wrote to fans. “We analyzed every survey, read every comment, and improved the Falcons gameday experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium based on what was most important to you.”

Beadles went on to say the Atlanta Falcons’ goal is to be a “championship team on and off the field while creating lifelong memories for you and your friends and family at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”

The NFL has a total of 32 teams. The Atlanta Falcons opened $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium in August 2017 as a replacement for the Georgia Dome. It is also home to the Atlanta United soccer team and a venue for major concerts and events.

— Maria Saporta

William Cope Moyers, Dr. Justine Welsh and Tom Johnson after the Atlanta Rotary presentation on Jan. 23. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

GA making progress on treating addiction

Thanks to the raising of $10 million from public and private partners, Georgians now have more options in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

“In Georgia, more people die of drug overdoses than they do from car accidents,” said Dr. Justine Welsh, medical director of the Addiction Alliance of Georgia, which is partnering with Emory Healthcare and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

The Emory Addiction Center, which officially opened on Oct. 26, 2022, provides intensive outpatient addiction treatment services on the campus of Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods on Clifton Road.

Dr. Welsh said the goal is for it to become “the premier center for addiction prevention, research and treatment in Georgia.”

The Rotary Club of Atlanta on Jan. 23 shined a spotlight on the efforts of the Alliance, Emory and Hazelden Betty Ford by inviting key leaders who have been behind these efforts, including Tom Johnson, Frank Boykin, Jim Langford, Jack Hardin, Ann Curry and Dr. Welsh.

A featured guest was William Cope Moyers, a former journalist at CNN who is now with Hazelden Betty Ford.

“I am an alcoholic, and I’m a drug addict,” Moyers said. “I was proof that addiction does not discriminate.”

Meyers then talked about his journey with addiction and how he was saved on Oct. 12, 1994, when he was rescued from a drug house on Ponce de Leon Avenue and Boulevard.

“We want the white guy,” someone from the Fulton County sheriff yelled outside the door where nine people were abusing drugs inside.

“Only one of us is alive today,” Moyers told Rotarians. “I got one more chance. I saw the faces of those eight women and men I left behind in that crack house. The color of their skin. They were not going to get one more chance.”

Johnson said he now has a goal to raise about $50 million to build a state-of-the-art in-patient facility as part of the next phase in the Emory and Hazelden Betty Ford partnership. 

— Maria Saporta 

The maintenance is part of a multi-year effort to replace all tracks and switches. (Photo courtesy of MARTA.)

Partial suspension on MARTA’s Red Line in February

Next month, MARTA will close part of its Red Line, with service ending south of Medical Center Station. The closure will run from Friday, Feb. 17 at 9 p.m. to Wednesday, Feb. 22. A reduced frequency Red Line service will begin on Thursday, Feb. 23, with full service restored on Sunday, Feb. 26.  

The train will operate normally north of the Medical Center Station. The southern section of the line is closed for track replacement work. 

Free bus shuttles are scheduled to run continuously between Medical Center, Buckhead and Lenox Stations, along with a $10 Uber or Lyft voucher available through MARTAConnect. Further voucher details will be provided closer to the project date.

The maintenance is part of a $225 million, multi-year Track Replacement Program to enhance the safety of the rail system and reduce train delays by replacing all tracks and switches.

— Hannah E. Jones

Department of Education grants $8 million to support childhood mental health workforce 

The Georgia Health Policy Center’s Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health at Georgia State University recently received an eight million dollar, five-year grant from the Department of Education to bolster Georgia’s childhood mental health workforce. The program is called Advancing Innovative Partnerships and Pathways to Address Mental Health Workforce Shortages in Georgia Schools.

In this pilot internship program, graduate-level students from three metro Atlanta universities will be stationed across six Clayton County schools in high-need districts. The program will grow incrementally for the first three years, starting with 15 interns serving a total of 200 students. 

Overall, the program’s mission is to expand access to school-based mental health services while growing the children’s behavioral health workforce across Georgia.

“Over the last decade, the prevalence of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression have increased among school-aged children and adolescents,” Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Director of Office of Children, Young Adults & Families Danté McKay wrote in a press release. “By expanding the internship program and the school-based provider pipeline, we hope to increase access to treatment by serving youth where they spend the majority of their time.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Nominees sought for Georgia Court of Appeals judgeship

A state commission is accepting nominees to fill a Georgia Court of Appeals judgeship left vacant by the December death of Judge Clyde Reese.

The replacement judge will be appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp. A list of nominees is being gathered by the Judicial Nominating Commission for the State of Georgia. Potential judges can apply, and the general public can suggest nominees as well. The process involves an application form with extensive background questions.

The Court of Appeals is a statewide appellate court that ranks below the Supreme Court of Georgia.

For nomination details, see the commission’s webpage.

– John Ruch

Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta welcomes 2023 Board of Directors

In its 31st year, the Corporate Volunteer Council (CVC) of Atlanta — a network of 100 metro Atlanta corporations — has announced its 2023 board of directors. The new 17-member board will help advance CVC’s mission to support member companies in delivering business results through their commitment to civic engagement and social impact. 

“After a successful 30th Anniversary year in 2022, I’m excited for all that lies ahead as we continue to serve the Metro Atlanta community,” CVC Executive Director Cheryl Kortemeier wrote in a recent release. “I cannot wait to see what this standout group of leaders accomplishes together.”

The 2023 executive committee includes:

  • Board President: W. Imara Canady, AIDS Healthcare Foundation
  • Board Vice President: Toccara Arnold Alam, KPMG
  • Immediate Past President: Reina Jones, Delta Community Credit Union
  • Secretary: Yvonne Whitaker, NCR
  • Treasurer: Geneva Hall-Shelton, IHG Hotels and Resorts

The following are joining as Board Directors and Committee Leaders:

  • Laura Moody, Purpose Possible
  • Greta Wilson, JLL
  • Jerry Travers, Bank of America
  • Judy Graham-Weaver, Delta Air Lines
  • Lara Wagner, Dell Technologies
  • Catherine Stranberg, Inspire Brands Foundation
  • Michele Blondheim, Aprio
  • Kat Reynolds, Veritiv
  • Shawan Allen, Cox Enterprises
  • Erin Goodier, Goodier Creative
  • Brittany Church, Ryan
  • Jasmine Cockfield, Shift4

— Hannah E. Jones

Matthew Mitchell.

CHRIS 180 announces new Chief People Officer and board members

CHRIS 180 — a Georgia nonprofit providing children, adults and families with high-quality, trauma-informed behavioral health services and support systems — announced several new additions to its team. 

Matthew Mitchell is joining as the new Chief People Officer. In this role, Mitchell will be a strategic business partner and oversee the human resources operations for CHRIS 180’s 400 staff members. His previous work includes human resources across retail, the public sector, creative services and healthcare.

“I want to be known as a servant leader,” Mitchell wrote in a recent release. “My goal is to be someone who empowers HR professionals and teams to embrace and bring value to their workplaces.”

The nonprofit also welcomes three new additions to its board of directors: 

  • Nicole Crowder, managing director with the consulting firm Accenture
  • Karimah McFarlane, head of market HR for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic with Google
  • Erika Montag, lawyer

“We seek board leaders who will help us find new ways to serve our community as we build on our legacy of trauma-informed care to help children, adults, families and communities live more resilient lives,” President and CEO Kathy Colbenson wrote. “Nicole, Karimah and Erika all have a passion for this community and will help us as we continue our focus on helping people recognize their own worth and providing them the opportunities they need to succeed, live meaningful lives and contribute.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.


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