Lynnette Allen, Fulton County’s first opioid coordinator, plans to use every resource she has at her disposal to stop the drug crisis afflicting the county.
“We will address substance abuse as well as mental health issues and will focus on the programs we have already established to combat this opioid epidemic,” Allen said in an interview. “In addition, we will monitor the work of our first responders to make sure they have the training to handle opioid and heroin-related emergencies and be able to use that training when appropriate.”
Allen, who was appointed to the new position in May, is not only a familiar face but has more than 26 years of experience in the behavioral and public health field.
The Cobb County resident, who is divorced with a college-age daughter, has served Fulton since 2006, most recently as a program evaluation specialist with the department of behavioral health and developmental disabilities.
According to a news release, Allen’s position will be in that same department. It was created by the Fulton Board of Commissioners to coordinate all of the anti-opioid programs and preventive efforts throughout the county.
In addition, Allen said Fulton would expand its awareness and prevention efforts throughout the county, “as this epidemic knows no demographic boundaries.”
In the release, Fulton Commission Vice Chairman and District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis said the opioid epidemic “has wreaked havoc on our society and within our county.”
“Establishing this critical role is another bold step we are taking to proactively combat this menace,” said Ellis, who sponsored legislation in 2017 to establish the county’s opioid abuse and misuse prevention plan.
County Manager Dick Anderson said in the release he was pleased Fulton was able to appoint Allen, “to help us strategically align our resources to fight the opioid crisis head on.”
“Ms. Allen’s experience and commitment to behavioral health makes her a natural fit for this position,” he said.
In her new role, Allen will also serve as the point of contact between the county and community-based organizations, elected officials, Fulton’s courts, local governments and state and federal officials in addressing this problem.
“If we make sure the state, county and other jurisdictions are working together, we can combat this opioid epidemic a lot easier,” she said. “We are also going to focus on our prevention and education awareness throughout the county and focus on getting information to the public on treatment facilities.”
In the news release, LaTrina Foster, director of the department of behavioral health and developmental disabilities and Allen’s supervisor, said, “Fulton County residents will benefit greatly from Ms. Allen’s extensive work in communities across the county, as well as her commitment to restoring lives affected by addiction.”
Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in community health education from the University of South Carolina.
According to the news release, the county has taken an aggressive stance in the fight against opioid addiction and overdoses. In 2017, Fulton became the first county in Georgia to join litigation against drug manufacturers for their role in the opioid crisis.
The county has made prevention an area of focus and in 2017 it adopted an opioid abuse and misuse prevention plan. It focuses on driving an array of initiatives, including robust awareness campaigns, establishing of a network of drug drop boxes throughout the county and launching of a text crisis line for teens.
Allen said opioid abuse impacts not only the drug user but also their families.
“Many times that includes children who are displaced from their homes because their parents are using,” she said. “We need to make sure people are aware of the many other problems that arise from opioid abuse.”