St. Lawrence County bears more than most in opioid epidemic
By JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
St. Lawrence County has the third highest rate of burden from the opioid epidemic in the state, according to the New York State Department of Health.
The burden is calculated by adding the number of overdose deaths, of non-fatal outpatient emergency department visits, and hospital discharges involving opioid overdoses, abuse and dependence.According to the 2018 report St. Lawrence County had at burden rate of 507.1 per 100,000. The data used to calculate the burden was from 2016.
The only counties with higher rates of burden are Ulster County at 559.6 and Sullivan County at 533.4
According to the report St. Lawrence County had 32 heroin and 66 opioid overdose-related emergency visits as well as 14 opioid or heroin overdose deaths.
The county also saw 460 hospital discharges involving opioid use and 560 people admitted to chemical dependence treatment programs for opioid and heroin.
St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Dana Olzenak McGuire said St. Lawrence County’s opioid burden is what prompted the formation of the county’s opioid task force.
Olzenak McGuire’s plan includes collecting data and interviewing various stakeholders to determine challenges and barriers to curbing the problem.
Casting a wide net and gathering input from law enforcement, community members, service providers, addicts and other stake holders, the task force has been meeting monthly since December 2018.
Currently the task force has been working to implement ODMAP, Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, in collaboration with law enforcement and emergency services to identify where arrests and overdoses are occurring.
Additional information she hopes to obtain includes the number of opioid prescriptions being issued, and the number of emergency room visits and 911 calls related to the drugs.
The task force has also helped facilitate several viewings of “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” a documentary aimed at educating students and young adults about the dangers of addiction.
More recently the task force has scheduled naloxone training events at local libraries. Naloxone is a drug that is administered nasally to counteract the effects of an opioid and heroin overdose. The effects of the treatment are near instant and the drug has been praised for saving thousands of lives in recent years.