Georgia Meth Project hopes to raise awareness of drug's dangers

The Georgia Meth Project hopes to alert millions of Georgians in the coming months to the powerful effects of methamphetamine abuse.

The project, a private-sector effort in conjunction with the Georgia Attorney General’s office, is in the process of raising $6 million to launch a statewide television, radio and newspaper advertising campaign that will graphically show the impact of the drug on users.

“These ads are going to be a bit edgy,” said Jim Langford, executive director of the Georgia Meth Project.

Langford and Attorney General Thurbert Baker brought their message to the Rotary Club of Columbus on Wednesday.Baker said there is an urgency in their efforts.

“If we don’t get a handle on this, it is going to ruin this state and country,” he said.

Meth use and abuse is a $23.4 billion problem in the United States and a $1.3 billion problem in Georgia, Baker said.

In the most recent statistics, 32 percent of the federal drug offenses in Georgia are meth related, Baker said.

To fight the growth of meth use in Georgia, the project is following a successful campaign that started in Montana. It is now being done in five states, but Georgia will be the first one east of the Mississippi River to pick it up.

The Siebel Foundation and its founder Tom Siebel have spent more than $60 million creating the project and fighting the problem in Montana.

“Meth use in Montana is going down significantly, while in Georgia the problem is only getting worse,” said Lee Shaw, project chairman and an Atlanta businessman. “Now, we have a chance to use the proven Montana campaign tools in Georgia. We have a chance to be a franchisee of the Meth Project, which means that we can leverage our efforts significantly with the time and capital investments that the Siebel Foundation has already spent.”

The centerpiece of the project is the advertising campaign, which conveys a message to those considering meth use. The underlining theme in the dozen or so television spots is “not even once.”

“In order to reach the entire state, we are going to have to market and use television and radio,” Baker said.

Since the project will buy air time and not use the traditional public service ad approach that many nonprofit organizations use, it will take significant money.

TSYS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Phil Tomlinson is part of the group working on fundraising efforts in Columbus.

“This is about drawing a line in the sand and trying to save a generation,” Tomlinson said.

The Georgia Meth Project is hoping to raise about $1.5 million in the Columbus region.

The ads are clearly targeted toward young users, showing what could happen if they fall into meth addiction.

“Unless we can talk to kids and get their attention, we are not going to be successful,” Langford said.