Tift County officials working to fight addiction

A community event in Tifton on Wednesday night aimed to fight the stigma of addiction./ Jazmyne Hankerson

The new drug court in Tift County is working to fight the rising drug addiction issue in the community.

An event on Wednesday night featured a panel of representation from local law enforcement, Tift Regional Health Systems, state agencies and the local court systems and aimed to shatter the stigma of addiction.

“The epidemic with addiction and prescription drug epidemic is not full of bad people. It’s full of people that are in pain, people that are feeling lonely, not feeling good,” said Dr. Abhinav Saxena with Tift Regional Health Systems.

The CDC reports 91 people each day die of opioid addiction.

That's one reason Tift County now has a new drug court helping people struggling with addiction through a strict program for at least 18 months.

Marcus Bennett was the first participant in the Tift drug court.

At this event, he shared his story for the first time to a crowd of how he’d been dealing and selling drugs for more than 20 years.

“It took for me to get in a program like that to get myself together,” said Bennett. “I should’ve done this a long time ago but it’s never too late to do nothing. Your only enemy is yourself.”

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals reports that 75% of people who graduate from drug court stay arrest free at least two years after leaving the program

The underlying message at the event was that addiction isn't just someone else's problem but rather it takes the whole community to make a change.

“There’s all races in there. There’s all backgrounds in there and I think that’s what Tifton is all about. That’s what South Georgia is all about,” said Saxena.

Bennett said he started selling drugs at 12 years old because he wanted to be cool and be like other people around him.

But today at 37, he said he’s proud to have a job and be drug-free.

Bennett plans to go back to school and get his GED to better himself.

He said he'll keep sharing his story to help stop other young men from going down his path.

“Put God first because you can’t do nothing without God. Be your own man don’t be a follower. Follow your instincts…. if you know better you’ll do better,” said Bennett.

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