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Know the enemy in the opioid war

July 11, 2019 05:06 pm Updated: July 12, 2019 09:05 am

As police and counselors place more emphasis on fighting the opioid epidemic in Greene and Columbia counties, we have good reason to be worried.

Columbia-Greene Addiction and Recovery Coordinator Danielle Hotaling presented these updated statistics to the Greene County Legislature on Monday:

Since 2010, mortalities from opioid overdoses in Greene County have increased from 8.1 per 100,000 to 23.1 per 100,000 in 2017. In 2016, the number of emergency room visits for overdoses caused by heroin was 78.5 per 100,000.

Hotaling introduced a valid new weapon to use against the opioid epidemic. First responders in the Twin Counties are using the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, or ODMAP, to log overdoses geographically.

The technology allows counselors to discover where spikes occur and develop a response plan. But concerns over the opioid problems in this area are mounting. So far this year, Greene County has experienced about twice as many overdoses as Columbia County, Hotaling said. Thirty suspected overdoses were reported in Greene County in 2019 and 16 were reported in Columbia County.

To questions lawmakers asked about the meaning of the word, “suspected,” Twin County Recovery Services Executive Director Beth Schuster said there is often a time lag between a fatal overdose and confirmation of the exact cause of death. Coroners’ reports on overdose cases can take months to more than a year.

Hotaling is wise to find the spatial patterns of overdoses in both counties and smart to place the ODMAP in the hands of first responders who can interpret the data. If the Twin Counties want to get a handle on this insidious crisis, they need to remember the best weapon is knowledge.