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Northwest Georgia Health District leads state in opioid deaths per capita

Friday, Mar. 31, 2023–9:04 a.m.

-Adam Carey, Rome News-Tribune-

Northwest Georgia has more opioid-related overdose deaths, per capita, than any other region in the state.

“We have a serious overdose problem,” Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District spokesman Logan Boss said. “We have by far the worst opioid death rate in the state.”

Within the 10-county district that includes Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker counties — Dade, Polk, Bartow, and Walker counties lead in overdose deaths. 

To support opioid crisis prevention and response efforts, the Georgia Department of Public Health is partnering with area recovery community organizations to establish a regional post-overdose response team.

Using data supplied by public health organizations, the RCOs will canvass neighborhoods where overdoses are suspected to have occurred, as well as known high-traffic drug areas, with information about prevention and treatment resources.

“We’ve been working on a ten-county program,” Boss said. “With a boots-on-the-ground approach. We’re not just sitting back collecting data, we’re in the streets every day.”

Recognizing the prevalence and risk of opioid overdoses local school systems are also taking action.

The Floyd County Schools discussed the presence of opioids in the community at the Floyd County School System Board of Education meeting on March 20.

Floyd County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jamey Alcorn stated that school officials have been advised by law enforcement that fentanyl is in the community and that officials should be prepared if a situation arises.

However, officials stated that as of the March 20 meeting, Floyd County schools have not had an incident.

“However, out of an abundance of caution, Floyd County Schools is reviewing our opioid-related procedures,” Alcorn stated. “Especially considering the lethality of these drugs, where even a tiny amount can kill you.”

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan spray

Help to that approach is now coming by way of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA on Wednesday followed through with its plan to approve Narcan for over-the-counter, nonprescription use, after saying it would do so last month.

Its advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend that Americans have wider and easier access to purchasing Narcan/Naloxone, the brand and generic versions of the drug, which have proven to reverse an opioid overdose if administered quickly enough.

This is the first over-the-counter nasal spray approved to combat opioid overdoses.

The FDA said it authorized the approval as part of its ongoing efforts “to take critical steps to reduce drug overdose deaths being driven primarily by illicit opioids.”

“Drug overdose persists as a major public health issue in the United States, with more than 101,750 reported fatal overdoses occurring in the 12 months ending in October 2022, primarily driven by synthetic opioids like illicit fentanyl,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., said in a statement.

According to Califf, the approval of OTC naloxone nasal spray will increase the number of locations where it’s available and help reduce opioid overdose deaths throughout the country.

The 4-milligram dosage of naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray was approved for over-the-counter nonprescription use. Other formulations and dosages of naloxone will only be accessible by prescription, the FDA said.

This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at