A new joint effort to track and treat drug overdoses across the county was unveiled by County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and other county officials on Thursday.
The Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) will attempt to track reported overdoses in real time, creating a living map of locations and potential fatalities, officials said. This will allow law enforcement and county health personnel to spot potential patterns and dangers.
The new program also features a treatment and recovery aspect in order to get help to those suffering from addictions.
“This is about saving lives. This is what we do in government, in public health and safety. This has to be a priority, ” Picente said in Utica on Thursday.
“These numbers are not just going to go away overnight and they’re not going to go away ever. As long as we have issues with medicine and drugs and illegal drugs in the offing, this is going to be a problem. Our goal is to keep it at a minimum.”
The new ODMAP system was developed in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area in response to their own heroin overdose problems. The program has been spreading to law enforcement agencies in the Northeast.
Every time a law enforcement officer responds to an overdose — either fatal or otherwise — they will take down biographical information about the victim and pass that along to dispatches with the state police. This information will then be uploaded to the Mohawk Valley Crime Analysis Center at the Utica Police Department, creating a database of overdose locations, along with severity, age, drug types and other factors.
This database will allow law enforcement officials to spot specific problem areas or spikes in drug severity and overdose deaths, which will turn allow them to focus their efforts and issue warnings to the public.
“It’s been proven to work,” said Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, though he noted that, “certainly it’s not the cure” to the overall opioid epidemic.
This year alone, Oneida County has seen 126 total reported overdoses, resulting in 17 overdose deaths.
“Once the opioid crisis began a few years back with the prescription opiate problem, New York State did a great push to decrease the prescription usage — there was a big crackdown on that,” said Phyllis D. Ellis, director of the county Health Department. “Fortunately, that decreased that avenue of getting opiate medication. Unfortunately, you can’t really just have patients abruptly withdrawing from opiates.”
Ellis said this led more and more people to heroin, a stronger and cheaper painkiller. She said this why the opioid crisis has only gotten worse over the years, despite all efforts to stop it. She said the problem has spiked this year because of an increase in the additional opiate fentanyl, which is being added more and more to heroin, and is even deadlier.
But the new mapping program does not just track overdose deaths. Once the overdose has been added to the ODMAP, the second half of the program will kick into gear, officials explained. If the overdose was not fatal, then the survivors will be approached by the county Health Department and the Utica Rescue Mission to begin treatment and recovery efforts.
All 16 of the county’s law enforcement agencies have agreed to report their overdose information to the program, along with multiple wellness, mental health, emergency medical service agencies and hospitals.
“There are no boundaries, there are no issues into who is doing what. We’re there and we’re handling it,” Picente said. “All of our responders have been outstanding. The cooperation is second to none. We have a lot of work to do.”