The underserved and undertakers –

June 16, 2020 – We first met her as she and her boyfriend were facing eviction from the COVID-19 crisis. He’d lost his job, and his mother days later, who paid for the house while Melissa focused on recovery. “I feel like the harder I try the worse things get,” Barnes said.

How long has she been addicted to opioids?

“20 years,” she said.

She’d just finished inpatient rehab before the shutdown, and she’s been sober for about 100 days.

What’s it like being an addict during a pandemic?

“It’s rough. I’ve had points when I just wanted to give up and go do it,” Barnes said.

Her struggle is something Christian Frazier witnesses every day. He’s the executive director of Focus on Recovery Augusta.

“It’s a worst-case scenario type of deal,” Frazier said. “This impacts our low-income population so desperately. This particular portion of the community relies so heavily upon these state-funded services.”

But the I-TEAM found there will soon be fewer recovery resources in Georgia — far, far less. The state legislature in Georgia is working to pass a 2021 budget, with $3 to 4 billion to cut due to the pandemic shortfall.


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