County’s substance use prevention coalition and sheriff say new overdose mapping brings many benefits
BY JIMMY LAWTON
NORTH COUNTRY THIS WEEK
CANTON – After more than year of effort from the county public health director and many other local and state agencies, the county can now track any drug overdoses involving an EMS or police response.
St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Dana McGuire says implementing ODMAP technology has been a goal of for her since she created the Partners 4 Substance Use Prevention coalition.The tool is expected to be a boon for public health as well as law enforcement agencies. St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe said the overdose mapping has potential to aid the drug task force. He said the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office has been working hard to tackle the drug problem and ODMAP will add one more tool to help achieve that goal.
According to McGuire the county began using the technology in September. Since that time 13 overdoses have been logged into ODMAP, with zero fatalities.
While the public won’t be able to access ODMAP directly, McGuire says she will make the number of overdoses and areas of concern available.
What is ODMAP?
According to the ODMAP website, the application “provides near real-time suspected overdose surveillance data across jurisdictions to support public safety and public health efforts to mobilize an immediate response to a sudden increase, or spike in overdose events.”
All first responders can use the ODMAP app to log an overdose in real time.
A responder can record basic information on whether an overdose incident is fatal or nonfatal, as well as the number of doses of Naloxone administered. For law enforcement, the tool also includes a form where officers can add additional information about individuals involved, initiate an investigation, and enter data about the form and type of drugs.
From McGuire’s perspective the tool has the potential to save lives and help paint a more realistic picture of the county’s opioid and heroin problem, which could help acquire state and federal funding necessary to address the problem.
While the state does track overdoses, the data often becomes available more than a year after an incident occurs. While that data can still be useful, a faster information gathering method allows for a better public health response.
The location tracking can help the county’s substance use prevention coalition decide where to invest in opioid prevention education and other services that can stem the spread of needle related diseases. The real time entry of data allows for a quick response that can help contain drug related health hazards. ODMAP also comes with an alert system. If several fatal overdoses occur in the county in a 24-hour period the application will alert health officials who can then get the message out that a particularly dangerous drug is circulating.
Since many other counties in the state also use the program, the health department can see if overdoses are occurring and moving toward St. Lawrence County, potentially allowing them to get ahead of problem before it reaches the county.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brookes Bigwarfe said the technology is another tool for law enforcement, which will allow them to track and investigate where opioids are being distributed. The time stamp and location of incidents that occur can help investigators track the movement of drugs, potentially before they even reaches the county.
Undersheriff Sean O’Brien said the technology allows law enforcement to cast wider net and he’s hopeful it will result in a safer community.
Bringing ODMAP into use was a long and trying process. McGuire worked with several agencies so that all emergency responders in the county would be using the technology to ensure the data is as accurate and complete as possible.
But she says there is still work to be done. She said overdoses in which victims are taken to health care facilities won’t be tracked by ODMAP yet, however she’s hopeful that can occur in the future. She also said that with the use of the opioid antidote Naloxone, overdoses may be treated onsite by citizens who have no access or interest in reporting to the incident.
“We can’t track everything, but we want to get the most complete data we can,” she said.
At this time, state police, St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies and local town, village and city police agencies in the county are all using the ODMAP application.
McGuire offered appreciation to the many people who helped make it possible.
“It’s been a group effort with a lot of people involved,” she said.