Louisiana launches new digital tool to enhance fight against opioid crisis

Governor Edwards thinks it will help the state get more federal help

Louisiana launches new digital tool to enhance fight against opioid crisis

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Louisiana takes another step to battle the opioid crisis and save lives.

Governor John Bel Edwards and the state’s health chief announced the activation of a new digital tool that will provide detailed data on the problem and help the state direct resources to opioid hotspots.

It is called the Louisiana Opioid Data and Surveillance System and provides comprehensive data about opioid deaths, emergency room visits for overdoses, hospital admissions and the number of prescriptions written for opioids and is accessible to health care professionals and the general public. "The opioid problem in Louisiana is real and it's much bigger than a lot of people understand,” said Governor Edwards.

Addiction to prescription opioid pain killers has resulted in overdoses, deaths and force many people to turn to illicit street drugs like heroin when access to prescription opioids dries up.

Dr. Joseph Kanter, M.D., Administrator and Medical Director for Region 1 of the La. Dept. of Health and former Health Department Director for the City of New Orleans demonstrated how the online tool works and pulled up specific data instantaneously. "For example, Jefferson Parish right here, in 2017 there 137 painkiller prescriptions written for every 100 people in the parish, so that's well more than one bottle per person per year, similar numbers, St. Tammany had 128 per 100,” Dr. Kanter said as he pinpointed the data on a computer screen.

Kanter said while the opioid problem is serious trends in Louisiana, in terms of the number of opioid prescriptions are headed in the right direction. "For the whole state in 2014 five million, almost five and half million prescriptions and that's gone down now in 2017 to 4.9 million, so decent progress, we have a lot of ways to go,” said Dr. Kanter. “We believe that any information is knowledge that helps us get closer to a solution,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, current Director of the New Orleans Health Department.

She welcomes the new state initiative. "Can help us really understand the patterns and r understand and where our most cost effective interventions are going to be,” Avegno stated.

The Louisiana Department of Health already uses federal dollars to purchase the opioid overdose rescue drug, Narcan, which is also known as Naloxone. Information provided to FOX 8 News from LDH says the state is purchasing Narcan kits for $71.30 with federal grant dollars.

A cost compared to the retail price of $140-$170 per box.

And in New Orleans, city hall said over three years it has had a contractual price of $31 a box for Narcan. The price includes a $6 manufacturer rebate. Without the contract price, the cost would be $53.99 a box.

The governor believes having a more precise picture of the opioid problem will help the state garner more federal help. "Better able to secure grant money that would come down and help us to do things that we're already doing maybe it's making sure that naloxone is available for first responders,” Edwards said. And the state believes with more information it can do a better job of helping specific communities with treatment resources and rescue drugs like Narcan. "It allows us to visualize the data, perform trends over the past few years, compare parish-to-parish and kind of get a bird's eye view, a thousand foot view of where hot spots are,” said Dr. Kanter.

To access the website go to: https://lodss.ldh.la.gov

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