Following opioid overdose training, French Market officers responded to overdose one hour later

Published: May. 1, 2022 at 10:14 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the city starts to enjoy a “return to normal”, fentanyl overdoses in the city are also on the rise.

In these emergencies, seconds matter which is why the city is now training public-facing departments to recognize and respond to an overdose.

“It’s an unfortunate reality every day our public safety team whether that’s Ems fire or bystanders sometimes have to administer naloxone to individuals who have overdosed,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno.

According to the city’s health director, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, crews are responding to fentanyl overdoses three to four times a day across the city.

“That’s really about the heartbreaking part of this. And I think all of us know someone who is affected by someone else who uses drugs,” said Avegno.

It’s going to be a long, multi-layered approach to fight this epidemic. But Avegno says the first step she says is giving not only Ems, but the public, and public-facing workers training to recognize and respond to overdoses with naloxone.

“We reached out to some of our partners in the hotel and restaurant in bar industries to say look, you guys might be the first line of defense, right?” said Avegno.

“Our guys are boots on the ground every day providing a service every day in one of the most pedestrian heavy corridors and one of the most historical areas of the city,” said Ross Bourgeois.

They’re the people who help the ever-popular French Market open day after day, so the Health Department trained and equipped them with Narcan.

Director Ross Bourgeois said they were surprised how quickly after that training his officers were faced with saving a life.

“In one case within an hour of that training they received a call… it was one of his one of our grounds patrol security officers assigned to the French Market who received the call of you know, of someone in distress in the pedestrian mall along St. Peter street outside of Jackson square and responded, assess the situation, administered the Narcan and you know, moments later, the subject regained consciousness,” said Bourgeois.

That wasn’t the last time either. Bourgeois says a different officer, on a different day, and a different shift helped save another life.

“I think it speaks to the fact this is an issue it’s an issue in our community,” said Bourgeois.

It will take more than a couple of responding officers though to make a difference.

“So we want our citizens anytime they might come across someone who’s not responsive to know what to do because it’s those minutes that save people’s lives,” said Avegno.

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