Gov. John Bel Edwards was at the White House Thursday afternoon as President Trump announced steps designed to reduce the opioid epidemic. Edwards called it a good first step.
The opioid epidemic has a tight grip on the city, and an agency that deals with people struggling with an opioid addiction applauds Trump's declaration that the epidemic in America is a national health emergency.
"In New Orleans alone, the amount of opioid deaths doubled from 2015 to 2016. Last year there were a 166. Of the 211 drug deaths last year, 166 were from opioid overdose," said Joyce Bracey, executive director of the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans, also known as CADA.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, synthetic opioids like Fentanyl and pain relievers patients get legally with prescriptions. Many people get hooked on their prescription meds.
"Heroin and all the pain medications - they're very difficult to kick. It's a very difficult addiction to overcome, but it's not impossible," said Bracey.
"This epidemic is a national health emergency," the president said during a White House announcement Edwards and Louisiana's Health Chief Dr. Rebekah Gee were present.
"I am thrilled about it because it absolutely is a national health emergency and it really needs a hundred percent of our focus and attention. It's just out of hand," Bracey said.
Louisiana knows well the crisis of opioid addiction.
"I appreciate the president and this declaration of a public health emergency because it truly is. I believe it's a great beginning, it's a start," said Edwards.
Edwards had been invited to the White House to discuss the impact of the opioid crisis on states like Louisiana.
"While it doesn't bring additional resources in the immediate short-term, it does give us additional flexibility to reallocate the resources that are already available to us to help fight this opioid epidemic in Louisiana, and while we're not the worst in the country, it's still an awful scourge on our state," Edwards said.
Bracey said the New Orleans community desperately needs more detox facilities, especially for people without insurance.
"Our number one need in New Orleans is detox. There's nowhere to send people. There's one place at Odyssey House, and they can only do so much. We have to drive people to Lafayette, to Baton Rouge just to get them detoxed, and there's nowhere that will take a woman that's pregnant, nowhere that will take children. There's just not enough resources in the city of New Orleans," she said.
The president promises to crack down on the flow of fentanyl into the country.
"Very deadly, and when users find out about a drug like that, they actually seek out the new, deadliest hit because it's likely to give them a high where they've developed a tolerance for the one they've been using, and they don't get the high anymore. So they want that more powerful drug," Bracey said.
Drug addiction takes a toll on more than just those who can't kick the high.
"When a person in a family is addicted, the whole family becomes sick. They all need treatment afterward because their brains get rewired to handle the chaos and uncertainty of an addicted person living in the home," Bracey said.