NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "Since January of 2016, we've really seen an uptick of opioid both overdoses and deaths," Orleans Parish Director of EMS Dr. Jeffrey Elder said.
The opioid crisis has overwhelmed communities nationwide and here in New Orleans, where more than 160 people died last year from an opioid overdose. That's double the amount of people who died the year before.
Elder said he's extremely happy that President Trump signed a declaration making opioid abuse a public health crisis.
"It is definitely an issue, a public health issue for our area, and that's why the mayor's office and the New Orleans Health Department has really been engaged in this issue," he said.
The city released its plan to combat the problem earlier this month. Part of that plan includes giving NOPD officers the opioid antidote Narcan to administer on the street.
"We've always used it with EMS and expanded the program to the fire department, and just this week we've been doing training with the New Orleans Police Department," Elder said.
"One thing unique to the opioid epidemic is that many individuals are just dying on the streets of New Orleans," said Michelle Gaiennie-Hamrick, executive director of clinical services at Bridge House/Grace House. She said it's a problem that must be addressed as a community.
"We're trying to work together when an individual comes into the emergency and they've overdosed on opioids and they receive Naloxone in the emergency room, which reverses the effects of the opioids. We want to capture that individual. We want to make sure that individual gets treatment," she said.
Part of the city's plan is to link overdose victims in the ER with treatment resources. Hamrick said those addicts will likely need long-term treatment to recover.
"Medicaid will pay for a client to come into treatment for one month to four months, but after that they will not pay for treatment, so it's not taken into account that the client is homeless or unemployed," Gaiennie-Hamrick said.
Gaiennie-Hamrick hopes the national declaration will help addicts get long-term treatment. Dr. Elder believes it's a serious issue that's finally getting the national attention it needs.
"Ideally, getting federal resources down to the local level is really where it needs to be. It needs to be a grassroots effort at the local community level for each community to look at their problems and their issues for their citizens and their region," he said.