NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — With record highs in drug overdose deaths plaguing the state, the opioid epidemic will no longer take a back seat to the coronavirus pandemic if Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams have their way.
Sen. Cassidy implored Congress from the Senate floor to take urgent action in the fight against the opioid crisis.
This comes two weeks after DA Williams unveiled the use of the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) in an effort to dial in areas plagued by drug-related fatalities.
“The New Orleans area saw the largest increase in opioid overdoses and deaths in the entire country during the pandemic,” NOLA Detox co-founder and CEO Dan Forman told WGNO. “We have a severe issue in our community and a lack of resources. So the fact that DA Williams is bringing [ODMAP] is very important.”
According to Forman, Williams’ approach to the epidemic is a critical first step.
“[DA Williams] believes, and he said, we can’t prosecute our way out of this issue,” said Forman. “The reality is that this is a highly treatable illness and it deserves treatment and not prosecution,”
But just how will ODMAP aid in combating local opioid abuse?
“If you talk to our patients they don’t often go out looking for fentanyl, that is an issue that is really severe in our community right now, because fentanyl is 100 times stronger than the heroin we used to see on the streets,” said Forman. “So, a lot of people are overdosing and dying.”
“Patients aren’t looking for fentanyl, they are looking for heroin, they are looking for opioids, so they don’t know what they are getting in their drugs that they are buying off the streets,” he continued.
“So by having this map, we are able to really identify where people are buying, where people are overdosing which will allow us to put more resources into the community to help find a cure and a treatment for this illness.”