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Piedmont agencies using overdose mapping to identify trends

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SURRY COUNTY, N.C. -- In 2017, Surry County officials reported a total of 237 overdoses, 55 of which were fatal. The next year, the number of overdoses jumped to 372. But, before 2017 ended, the county became the second in the state to begin participating in an overdose detection mapping application program, called ODMAP.

"There was actually a gentleman who created this that had an overdose in his own family,” Surry County EMS Director John Shelton said.

In 2018, 31 of the county’s 372 overdoses were fatal. As of the first week of August, there had been 216 overdoses resulting in 19 fatalities in 2019.

"Mount Airy, Dobson and Elkin are the largest numbers that we have,” Shelton said.

Officials say of late, it appears their overdose patients are requiring more Narcan to reverse their overdoses.

"We probably average one to two overdoses a day,” Shelton said.

The department is attributing the severity of the overdoses to the drugs being mixed with several chemicals, as opposed to being pure.

"In most of the cases we have now it's not just one singular chemical that's used,” Shelton said.

Fentanyl and carfentanil are being found in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine and carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

"When they try to do the mixtures they want one to stimulate them and they want one to bring them down,” Shelton said.

At least 75 percent of their fatal overdoses involve multi-chemical uses, he added.

Using ODMAP, officials input details regarding the individual overdoses, such as location, the patient’s gender and the suspected drug. They also keep track of if Narcan was used, if it was used more than once, if the overdose was fatal and other details.

"The diamonds are the fatal overdoses,” said Eddie Jordan, compliance and peer review officer for Surry County EMS.

Having a map of where the overdoses happen can help law enforcement in their pursuit of the traffickers.

"Our sheriff, police and SBI agencies have been very successful this year in doing raids all over the county,” Shelton said.

There are now 36 North Carolina counties participating in ODMAP, including nearly all of the Piedmont Triad.

In total, 45 states have at least one agency using the technology, in addition to Washington, D.C.

"We can pretty much track when an episode is going to increase and maybe when it's going to decrease,” Jordan said.

To learn more about ODMAP, click here.

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