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Opioid Epidemic Hits Rural Southern Towns Hard

Natural disasters have harmful effects on health and mental health. Many individuals impacted by extreme weather events such as droughts, experience a range of difficulties. The mental health consequences linked to global climate stress and distress, high-risk coping behaviors such as alcohol use and drug use, mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

Georgia’s prescription opioid and heroin problem threatens the well-being of every Georgian at every socio-economic level and in every geographic region of the state but most notably in rural predominantly white communities where there is little economic infrastructure. The health care costs associated with opioid misuse in Georgia were estimated at $447 million in 2007 with estimated per-capita costs at $44. Given the increase in overdose deaths and misuse of opioids in Georgia over 15 years, some estimates indicate that health care costs associated with opioid misuse in Georgia have increased by 95 percent since 2007. Hospitalizations related to opioid use and misuse in Georgia also have skyrocketed, from about 302,000 in 2002 to about 920,000 in 2019.Opioid Abuse in Georgia​​ According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, all drug overdose deaths in Georgia increased by 60 percent (1,472,000) from 2019 to 2021 Similarly the cost of opioid related inpatient care more than doubled during the same time period, rising to $16 billion in 2019.

Georgia's diverse countryside is dotted with numerous sites of old villages and abandoned towns that no longer exist — ghost towns. They have names such as Auraria, Estelle, Scull Shoals, Ebenezer, Powelton, Munnerlyn, Griswoldville, Bethany, Mountain View, Godfrey, Apalachee, Sunbury and on and on. They brim with history and some of it not so cheerful. Many of these abandoned towns were sundown towns. Sundown towns were all-white communities that intentionally exclude African Americans, Mexicans, Greeks, Asians, Natives and other minorities from residing within their boundaries by forced expulsion, violent threats, or economic coercion. Multiple sundown towns and counties appeared in Georgia during the mid nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most sundown towns emerged between the 1870s and 1960s. They were common in communities of the Northeast, Midwest, and most especially parts of the South that had few African Americans and other minority residents prior to the 1880s.

Most sundown towns were the product of violence. In some instances, white mobs perpetrated racial cleansings that expelled entire Black communities in a single day. In other cases, white gangs utilized systematic threats of violence punctuated by lynchings or public acts of racial terror. In many cases, whites resorted to “whitecapping” or “night riding,” acts of organized, extralegal violence executed under the cover of night, that sought to terrorize Black families and communities. Public lynchings and night riding drove Black residents from Forsyth and Dawson counties in 1912, for example. Whites also used legal means to displace Black residents. Anti-Black housing ordinances and zoning laws were particularly common, especially in suburban communities, and “buyout” campaigns forced Black residents to sell their homes, while landlords refused to renew existing leases.

In 1844, Oregon, which had banned slavery, banned African Americans from the territory altogether. Those who failed to leave could expect to receive lashings under a law known as the "Peter Burnett Lash Law", named for Provisional Supreme Judge Peter Burnett. No persons were ever lashed under the law; it was quickly amended to replace lashing with forced labor, and eventually repealed the following year after a change in the makeup of the legislature. However, additional laws aimed at African Americans entering Oregon were ratified in 1849 and 1857, the last of which was not repealed until 1926. This law in Oregon was the foreshadowing of future laws restricting where minorities could live, not only in Oregon but other jurisdictions.

Outside Oregon, other places looked to laws and legislation to restrict black people from residing within cities, towns, and states. In 1853, all blacks were banned from entering the state of Indiana. Those who were caught in the state and unable to pay the fine were punished by being re-enslaved and sold at auction. Similar bans on all black migration were passed in Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa.


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