Georgia Today: Final day of General Assembly; hazing put teen in hospital; Savannah renaming square
LISTEN: On the Wednesday March 29 edition of Georgia Today: Today is the final day of the General Assembly; the GBI is investigating a hazing incident that put a Brunswick teen in the hospital; and Savannah is renaming an iconic public square.
Orlando Montoya: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Wednesday, March 29. I'm Orlando Montoya. On today's episode, the clock is ticking for the state's General Assembly on its final day to pass legislation. The GBI is investigating a hazing incident involving a Brunswick teenager. And Savannah is looking for the public's help to rename an iconic public square. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Orlando Montoya: State lawmakers have a busy day of decisions as key votes remain on this, the final day of this year's General Assembly. Most importantly, lawmakers still have to pass a budget after negotiators from both houses reportedly reached a compromise deal earlier today. The Georgia House also approved a Senate measure that would require cash bail for dozens of new offenses, including marijuana possession and property destruction and unlawful assembly. It's part of an effort to limit local officials from enacting more progressive criminal justice initiatives. But senators and representatives also are trying to reach agreement on plans to improve mental health care. Other closely watched items that could see action by the end of the day include legalizing sports betting, giving vouchers to children attending poorly performing public schools, and raising the legal weight limit for some trucks on state roads. For all the latest Georgia news, including from the state capital, visit our website, GPB.org.
Orlando Montoya: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the events that led up to a teenager being left at a Brunswick hospital after becoming severely intoxicated with drugs and alcohol. 19-year-old Trent Lehrkamp was the victim of what police are calling a hazing incident last week. Monday night, hundreds of people attended a vigil for Lehrkamp organized by Ahmad Arbery's aunt, Theawanza Brooks.
Theawanza Brooks: It's quite disheartening to know that a person was so devalued to the degree of what was done to him.
Orlando Montoya: Brooks says she doesn't know Lehrkamp or his alleged abusers, but she says she wants to call attention to the case so that the juveniles involved are prosecuted. So far, there have been no arrests in the case.
Orlando Montoya: Georgians on the front lines of the state's opioid crisis are welcoming news out of the Food and Drug Administration today. The agency has approved selling the overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription. The Northwest Georgia Public Health District has the highest five-year opioid overdose death rate in the state. District spokesman Logan Boss says he hopes over-the-counter sales are made available as soon as possible.
Logan Boss: Nearly 40% of all opioid overdose deaths, someone else is present. So having naloxone more easily accessible will certainly help prevent overdoses and save lives.
Orlando Montoya: State health officials report about 1,700 Georgians died of opioid overdose in 2021.
Orlando Montoya: Health officials and drug enforcement agencies are warning about the dangers of an increasingly prevalent drug, xylazine — a dangerous depressant in humans. The drug is commonly used as an animal tranquilizer. GPB's Sofi Gratas has more on cases in Georgia.
Sofi Gratas: According to public health data, xylazine-related deaths in Georgia have jumped by over 1,000% in the past two years, from under 20 to over 183 last year. Houston County is one of a few hotspots so far. Just north of there, Marissa Cody is the overdose surveillance and planning specialist for the 13 county Public Health District based in Macon. She says every single xylazine-related death in the area has so far involved fentanyl. That's meant lower chances of survival.
Marissa Cody: When you have someone who is taking xylazine with fentanyl and they're overdosing, since both are central nervous system depressants, the Narcan is virtually ineffective.
Sofi Gratas: Cody says education and awareness are the best defenses against the drug until there's better treatment. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas.
Orlando Montoya: Albany's Phoebe Putney Health System has formalized a partnership with a technical college aimed at addressing South Georgia's critical nursing shortage. Hospital officials say the partnership with Southern Regional Technical College will boost the number of nursing students at the college and open new training opportunities for those students at the hospital.
Orlando Montoya: Emory University School of Medicine is looking at a new way to treat multi-drug-resistant infections. This comes as the CDC issues a public health warning on Candida auris. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports.
Ellen Eldridge: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an emerging drug-resistant fungus is spreading rapidly through health care facilities. But a team at Emory is looking at how gut microbiomes can be used to treat it. Dr. Michael Woodworth is an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory.
Dr. Michael Woodworth: Its resistance to medications is really unprecedented compared to other similar yeasts, and that the antifungals that are most commonly used to treat Candida often don't work for Candida auris. And this, of course, makes them more difficult to treat.
Ellen Eldridge: The CDC says this fungus is not a threat to healthy people, but can cause severe illness in those with compromised immune systems. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.
Orlando Montoya: The National Weather Service has confirmed an F1 tornado hit the ground in Baldwin County Sunday morning with winds of up to 100 miles per hour. Gov. Brian Kemp toured the damage yesterday. He said around ten businesses and 20 homes were hit in the local community. He said there were no fatalities.
Orlando Montoya: The Savannah City Council is asking the public for suggestions on what name should be given to one of its iconic public squares in the city's downtown historic district. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.
Benjamin Payne: The square, formerly named after John C. Calhoun, is located about one block northeast of Forsyth Park. That was until last November, when Savannah city leaders voted to remove the former vice president's name on the grounds that he was a staunch defender of slavery. Now the city is turning to the public for ideas on who or what to name the square after. It can be a person, preferably deceased. It can also be native wildlife, a geographical feature, or a historical event. Applications must include a letter of support from the mayor or one of the city council members representing the square's district. The deadline to submit is May 15, after which city staff will conduct a review before public meetings are held. The City Council plans to vote on a name in August or September. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.
Orlando Montoya: Tyler Perry was in Northwest Georgia yesterday filming his upcoming war drama Six Triple Eight, filmed on portions of Main Street in downtown Cedartown, as well as in front of Polk County Courthouse No. 1. Six Triple Eight is a Netflix feature that tells the true story of the only all-Black all-female World War II Battalion, faced with the task of sorting through and fixing a three-year backlog of undelivered mail to U.S. troops fighting in the war. The film will star Kerry Washington, Oprah Winfrey, and Susan Sarandon, among others. But none of those well-known actors made an appearance in Cedartown yesterday.
Orlando Montoya: A chef at a restaurant in Decatur has been named a finalist for a James Beard Award. Terry Koval of the Deer and the Dove is the only Georgian named today as a finalist for the award. One of the nation's most prestigious for the culinary arts, Georgia had nine semifinalist nominations in January. Koval is nominated for Best Chef in a five-state Southeast region. He'll find out if he wins the award in June when the James Beard Foundation holds its annual awards ceremony in Chicago.
And that's it for today's edition of Georgia Today. If you haven't yet hit, subscribe on the podcast. Please take a moment to do that right now and keep us current in your podcast feed. If you have feedback, we'd love to hear it. Email us at GeorgiaToday@GPB.org. I'm Orlando Montoya. We'll see you tomorrow.
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