More than $1 million headed to Louisiana to combat heroin and opioid epidemic


Responding to a health crisis that kills more than 40 people in the U.S. daily, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) awarded three Louisiana health centers — including two in the New Orleans area — more than $1 million to treat opioid addiction and abuse in underserved populations.

Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority in Metairie will receive $325,000, Marillac Community Health Centers in New Orleans will receive $406,250, and Lake Charles' SWLA Health Centers will receive $406,250. The awards are part of a $94 million Affordable Care Act package with awards heading to more than 250 health centers nationwide.

"The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2013, 289,000 people in the U.S. were using heroin while another 4.5 million using prescription painkillers. HHS estimates prescription painkiller overdose deaths has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013. Hreoin-related deaths increased 39 percent between 2012 and 2013. Roughly 44 people die every day from opioid painkillers — drugs like Demerol, Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet and codeine syrup. There were nearly 44,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2013 — more than half those deaths were from prescription drug overdoses.

In January, New Orleans health officials declared heroin and opioid use a public health advisory. New Orleans EMS has responded to a rising number of calls, as many as five to ten a day, related to heroin use. More than 100 people were treated for overdoses by EMS and area hospitals — compared to 78 at the same time last year. Overdoses from Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, also are on the rise. A dozen people in New Orleans died following a Fentanyl-related overdose last month

The city has made Narcan — which can reverse the effects of an overdose — available without a prescription at the University Medical Center Outpatient Pharmacy (2000 Canal St.) and at Crescent City Pharmacy (2240 Simon Bolivar Ave.). 

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