Opinion Columns & Blogs

This ‘beacon of hope’ could revolutionize how Macon deals with drug abuse

Have you noticed a spirit of goodwill and cooperation spreading over Macon? It’s not my imagination: The most recent sign of this encouraging attitude is the opening of a promising new resource in the ongoing war on addiction and substance abuse disorders. Interconnected with poverty, homelessness, unemployment, public health and various legal issues, these perplexing problems interact to disrupt the lives of a heartbreaking number of people in the midstate, including families and children.

The new resource (housed at 750 Baconsfield Drive, Suite 101) is called The Lighthouse Addiction Recovery Support Center, and is a collaborative effort on the part of multiple agencies, including the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and, locally, River Edge Behavioral Health. Recovery Support Supervisor Marissa Cody can be reached at 478-803-7661.

Encouragingly, The Lighthouse hosted a “listening session” a few weeks ago to hear the needs of the broad community. The gathering lured a crowd passionate about helping others. Many of those in attendance — judges, clergy, counselors and others — were already active in the battle to make this a better place, while others were the beneficiaries of such efforts. Whatever their stories, the sense of shared purpose was palpable.

We hear daily about how the raging opioid epidemic and other forms of addictive disease are accompanied by a rising suicide rate and other sadly associated problems. In Macon, a city laboring under the weight of rampant poverty and destructive social and racial divisions, it is easy to wonder if we can cope with additional burdens, especially when they attack the already-struggling members of our community.

More than ever we live in a era when all things are indeed connected, and the problems with blighted neighborhoods, closing businesses, mindless shootings and even murder all seem intertwined with the “people issues” of hopelessness, substance abuse, suicide and other devastating problems. In what may hold the secret to this new facility’s future success, the Lighthouse is reaching out to every organization that in some way touches – or is touched by – the tangled problems that, unarrested, rend our social fabric..

While Bibb County has lost multiple vital service organizations over the years – the YMCA, YWCA, Prevent Child Abuse, the Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Child Advocacy Network, the Love Your Neighbor Campaign and others leap to mind – we our blessed to have many more still in the trenches hard at work, and a good many of these – still brimming with energy and commitment -- were represented at The Lighthouse’s listening session.

The great hope emanating from this gathering in my mind was the epiphany that, in the face of daunting odds, the groups can magnify their effectiveness if they will arrange to routinely interact to communicate and build morale: “What can we do to aid one another?” was the sentiment that dominated. Just as the problems are interconnected (for example, poverty, addiction and depression) so must the solutions be. If The Lighthouse can succeed in enlisting service organizations to come together regularly, it will not only save countless lives but also serve as a beacon of hope.

Talk of a covenant to produce such interaction prompted one participant to repeat the old axiom “I can’t, but we can.” A cliché? Perhaps, but, oh, these are words that Macon-Bibb so needs to hear. If The Lighthouse can pull together the community’s disparate resources, it will have truly started Macon on the road to a miraculous new era of goodwill and cooperative action.

Larry Fennelly is a local educator.