Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the Louisiana Department of Health will utilize new and expanded federal grants to continue implementing innovative, effective strategies for combating the opioid problem in Louisiana. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded nearly $1 million for ongoing data collection, tracking and analysis of opioid-related overdoses statewide.

“Experts suggest that the actual impact of opioid overdoses and deaths might be under reported for the simple reason that there is no standard for recording opioid overdoses and deaths,” said Gov. Edwards. “Accurate reporting and tracking is crucial to determining how funding is allocated. Grants like this will allow Louisiana to have the data that is necessary to best target prevention and response strategies.”

The CDC’s Data-Driven Prevention Initiative has awarded $540,000 to be used for increased surveillance of opioid overdoses and deaths. This funding is an extension of a grant first awarded in 2016 which allowed the Department to work with external partners to merge statewide data sources that track deaths, prescription rates and emergency room and inpatient utilization.

Through its Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance initiative, the CDC has awarded a second grant for $457,702 which will be used for the establishment of a “rapid surveillance” system through a collaboration with local law enforcement agencies and coroners. This will make data on fatal and non-fatal overdoses available within weeks of the event.

“With this support from the CDC, we can partner with various agencies to enable a comprehensive approach to collecting and analyzing opioid-related data,” said Dr. Esteban Gershanik, director of the Department’s Bureau of Health Informatics. “Prevention and treatment programs will be able to better understand the populations most affected by this opioid crisis and target efforts in reducing overdoses and deaths in the state.”

The expanded funding is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ five-point strategy to fight the opioid epidemic that includes strengthening the understanding of the opioid crisis through better public health data and reporting.

"Having the best data is crucial to effectively combating the opioid epidemic in the state," said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. "These surveillance tools, along with our already robust prescription drug monitoring program, will help us to better target responses, resources and life-saving interventions."

Since 2012, the Louisiana Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Records has shown that opioid-related deaths and overdoses in Louisiana have steadily climbed from 155 deaths in 2012 to 305 in 2016. Many experts believe these numbers are under-reported. These grants will assist in evaluating such data and the reasons behind them. Additional information on opioid overdose deaths can be found here.