Georgia legislation allows pharmacists to carry overdose medication

By COURTNEY MAZZA

The 2017-2018 legislative session in Georgia will include a legislation from Georgia Overdose Prevention, or GOP, which would allow pharmacists to carry and dispense the overdose prevention medication, Naloxone, to people without a prescription.

In 2014, Georgia amended state laws with the passing of Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law and Expanded Naloxone Access Law, providing immunity, or protection from arrest, to those who seek medical assistance for themselves, or another person, who is experiencing a drug or alcohol related overdose. The bill also protects minors seeking medical attention for certain underage drinking offenses.

Not only does the law provide immunity for possession of certain drugs, probation and parole violations, drug paraphernalia and alcohol consumption, but the law also increases access to the treatment for opioid overdose, Naloxone. The GOP created and testified for the success of this law.

“After our law passed, we focused our efforts on educating Georgians about our law and the protection it provides, and on distributing Naloxone rescue kits and training to anyone at high risk of opioid overdose,” said Laurie Fugitt, co-founder of Georgia Overdose Prevention.

461 lives were saved by the GOP and Association of Human Resource Management, or AHRM, when kits were administered by community members, including relatives, friends and former drug abusers. These kits allow more time for a victim to receive proper medical attention to prevent death from an overdose.

The Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Frank Rotondo, has been a long supporter of Naloxone programs for law enforcement, testifying his support of the 911 Medical Amnesty and Expanded Naloxone Access Law, and distributing information to all

Georgia police chiefs, encouraging the Naloxone programs.

“The support of these programs is a no-brainer from my point of view,” Rotondo said. “A very clear example was a police lieutenant whose daughter died of an overdose, and she couldn’t assist her daughter. Friends left her daughter on the side of the road after partying. She died when she could have been saved.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, since 1999 sales of prescription opioid drugs have increased, and deaths involving these drugs has quadrupled. The abuse of heroin in young adults ages 18-25 has more than doubled in the past decade, with 45 percent of heroin abusers also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. In 2013, more than 8,200 people died of a heroin-related overdose.

According to a graph from Georgiaoverdose.com, people of all ages and ethnicities are dying in Georgia due to the abuse of opioid drugs. The lack of knowledge on medical amnesty laws and the availability of Naloxone are common reasons.

mapGeorgia Overdose Deaths from 2010-2015 (Photo courtesy of Georgriaoverdose.com)

University police departments across Georgia have also taken part in establishing Naloxone programs. As of 2016, 12 Georgia colleges’ law departments are equipped with Naloxone, including the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.

In 2017, Georgia State University will also begin carrying Naloxone.

nalaxoneNaloxone is administered by injection (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

According to Lieutenant Ben Dickens, the Athens Clarke County Police Department, or  ACCPD, used Naloxone eight times in the past year, with seven successful reversals.

“We only had a small number of kits to officers during this last year,” Dickens said. “We are now pushing it out to all patrol officers and expect the usage rate to go up.”

According to the GOD, Cobb County, Fulton County and Gwinnett County, are all experiencing the highest drug overdose rates in Georgia. Gwinnett County, one of the 57 Georgia law enforcement departments carrying Naloxone, experienced 406 overdose deaths between 2010 and 2015, while Fulton County has experienced 696 known overdose deaths during those same years.

Earlier this year, at the urging of District Attorney Paul Howard and the Fulton County Heroin Task Force, the Fulton County commissioners voted unanimously to allocate $49,000 to fund Naloxone for first respondents.

Rotondo believes that every law enforcement agency should carry Naloxone, but city and county budgets limit these resources.

“It is probably one of the simplest decisions I had to make, to say that’s a very good bill, all law enforcement agencies should have it, it’s reasonably priced,” Rotondo said. “Why all don’t have it is a question of money, because the reality of it is that all law enforcement agents feel the same way I do. It’s better to save people.”

KSU guest speaker discusses difficulties overcoming gag order

By LAUREN LEATHERS

KENNESAW, Ga. – Lesli N.Gaither, a lawyer who represents several media platforms, met with Kennesaw State University students this week to present information on a recent gag order, as well as to give advice to future journalists going into the field.

Gaither, an attorney with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, represented the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV and the Associated Press in successfully challenging a gag order issued last week in South Georgia. She spoke to Dr. Carolyn Carlson’s Media Law class this week.

Lesli

Lesli Gaither. (Photo credit: LinkedIn.com)

Judge issues gag order

The gag order was issued in the highly publicized death of schoolteacher Tara Grinstead, who went missing from Ocilla, Georgia, in 2005. Last month, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke in connection with her disappearance and death.

The defense attorney came forward with a stack of articles asking the judge to issue a restraining order stopping everyone involved in the case from talking to the media.

“They said this was getting out of control and we’re a small town and we don’t have a large jury pool,” said Gaither.

As a result, a gag order  was put into place almost immediately.

“Gag orders in Georgia are fairly rare, but this one came out in a fairly rare circumstance,” said Gaither.

Gaither said she feels the GBI, believing it had solved a 12-year-old cold case, wanted people to know about the case to see that its agents were doing their job well.

“It became a big deal,” said Gaither. “I think the GBI kind of wanted to talk about it.”

Difficulties arise obtaining  gag order

When Gaither requested the motion of the gag order from the clerk’s office she said she was denied. She requested any information the clerk’s office could give her in relation to the case and was, again, denied.

“This is, in my career, the first time I have challenged a motion that I have not read, and gone to argue a motion I have not read,” said Gaither.

Gaither said she told the judge upfront that she had not read the motion prior to challenging the gag order.

“It’s actually the high profiles that get the publicity,” said Gaither. “That doesn’t mean you should shut it down. It just means that’s what people are interested in and what they want to see. When things are gagged we only have rumors to go by.”

Gaither was able to receive  the judge’s gag order from a reporter. It is unknown how the reporter obtained the motion.

Gaither argued in a motion last week that the gag order was too vague and covered too many people. She presented a number of cases in her argument, arguing that the restraints should be narrowed significantly.

Gaither said the judge issued a modified order last Friday as a result of her arguments, and said she has no intentions to appeal.

“In our opinion, it’s still pretty wrong,” said Gaither.

Students react to  challenge of fighting  gag orders

One student in the class asked how it felt to challenge a motion without reading it prior.

In response, Gaither said that she openly admitted to courts that she had not read the motion prior and was unable to obtain a copy of the motion from the clerk’s office.

“It was not a big deal, but it was definitely different” said Gaither.

Senior journalism major Andrew Connard said he respects Gaither for the way she carries herself while speaking of her profession.

The biggest thing that stuck with me was that, as a journalist, I need to always be aware of, and stand up for, my rights,” said Connard.

Lesli speaking

Lesli Gaither speaking to a media law class. (Photo credit: Lauren Leathers)

Gaither said connecting a person who is unaffiliated with a case has become a common mistake that leads to libel lawsuits against the media.

“It is so easy to grab a piece of information, but can be very difficult to verify that your information is really about the same person,” said Gaither.

Gaither said that journalists have to be very careful when using social media to get pictures or additional information about someone, because there are often many people with the same name.

Gaither said her number one piece of advice for journalists going into the field is to be aware that myth identification has become the biggest liability issue for newsrooms.

Media litigation and counseling has become the focus of Gaither’s practice, along with complex commercial litigation.

She has been recognized on multiple occasions from 2011 to 2013 as a Georgia “Rising Star” in the area of First Amendment and Media and Advertising Law. In 2014 to 2016, she was, again, recognized by Super Lawyers magazine in the area of Media and Advertising Law.

 

 

Georgia senator introduces trans housing bill

By JESSICA FISHER

Transgender Protections in Georgia

ATLANTA – A bill allowing for fair housing and counteracting discrimination in Georgia, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, was introduced into the Georgia General Assembly by State Senator Lester Jackson on Feb. 2, 2017.

Shot-at-the-capital

Citizens rallying outside Georgia State Capitol (Photo by Jessica Fisher)

The legislation, called SB 119, had a two percent of passing according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Georgia Legislative Narrator, with that percentage dropping to zero after Crossover Day.

Chanel Haley, with Georgia Equality, said that things are not going well, politically, for transgender people in Georgia.

“There are just no protections,” Haley said.

Twenty percent of transgender people in the U.S. have “been discriminated” against when looking for a home, according to The National Center for Transgender Equality. More than ten percent have been “evicted from their homes because of their gender identity,” the center states.

Haley said that Atlanta is the only city in the state with protections for LGBTQ citizens.

“Other cities and counties have protections for their employees, but only for city employees,” Haley said. “We’re probably the worst in the south, or even the whole country.”

Despite this, Haley said she believes that a “positive” does exist in the fight for transgender rights among the national conservative political climate.

“We haven’t had any issues around legislation forcing trans people to use specific bathrooms here in Georgia,” Haley said.

Transgender Politics and the Federal Government

Haley said she believes that everything is a little unclear right now regarding the federal cabinet secretaries and transgender policies and regulations.

“I can assume the Department of Education won’t support transgender students,” Haley said. “You can assume that Housing and Urban Development will reverse its equal access rule. Funding can expected to be cut at Housing and Urban Development, as well as with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

The Department of Education, or DOE, released a “Dear Colleague” letter under the Obama administration which encouraged public schools and universities to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that were “consistent with their gender identity.”

That letter was, recently, revoked under Secretary Betsy DeVos’ DOE.

Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, released a press release in September 2016 which announced their intention to implement a new “Gender Identity Rule” which changed HUD’s definition of gender identity.

This regulation protecting transgender individuals has not been revoked under the Trump administration or under Secretary Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.

However, according to the New York Times, the federal regulation protecting trans individual’s rights to use the bathroom of their choice was revoked on Feb. 22, 2017 under Trump’s administration.

No Bathroom Bill in Georgia

Hope Jackson, a regional field organizer with the Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, for the Southeast said she believes that there are definitely policies that need to be changed in Georgia.

“Transgender and LGBQ communities just don’t have any rights here in Georgia,” Jackson said, adding that housing was an area where transgender people tend to have a “harder time.”

According to the ACLU, Georgia has no laws which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at the state level. The Transgender Law Center gives the state of Georgia a negative score on their Gender Identity Policy Tally.

“No one wants an anti-LGBT fight in Georgia,” Jackson said. “It’s bad for the economy.”

In fact, Jackson said that anti-LGBT bills like North Carolina’s HB2 cost North Carolina $630 million.

Jackson said that the reason these bills and laws can cost states so much money is because corporations are made up of diverse employees and when states pass these laws they inhibit employees from bringing their best work and their best self to the job.

According to Business Insider, losses for North Carolina in response to HB2 included $91 million in revenue from the NCAA and $100 million when the NBA decided to move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.

Last year when HB 757 was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and went to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal, the HRC and Georgia Equality, delivered 75,000 petitions to the governor’s office in opposition to HB 757 through a coalition known as Georgia Unites Against Discrimination.

When looking at the state of the federal government, Jackson said that what may happen by the end of the legislative session is still unclear.

“At a federal level, we’re still kind of waiting to see what will happen, if maybe there will be an executive order,” Jackson said. “At the state level, with SB 119, we’d see a shift in the mindset for civil right protections for the transgender community.”

About SB 119

Jackson said that SB 119 will help us see the need for more legislation that protects against discrimination and hate crimes against trans people.

“We’ll see that when they go to medical providers, that they aren’t being discriminated against, or being pushed toward conversion therapy,” Jackson said. “You’ll see more and more states that will be looking at North Carolina and asking, ‘What can we do to prevent this from happening?’ I think you’ll see legislators stepping out in support of civil rights protections.”

SB 119 has six co-sponsors, including Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort. For people like Jackson and Haley, the legislation could be a move in the right direction for Georgia.

The Georgia General Assembly legislative session, which almost immediately followed the 2016 presidential election, will be followed on the other end of its completion by the 2018 election.

For Georgia, the 2018 election means the election of new constitutional officers for positions including governor, attorney general and secretary of state, among others.

Whatever success SB 119 has, along with the outcome of the election to replace Secretary Tom Price, could prove to be indicators of what the 2018 election holds and what future legislative sessions mean for transgender people in Georgia.