Through a $4.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Louisiana Department of Health will fund opioid surveillance programs aimed at strengthening prevention strategies to tackle the opioid epidemic in Louisiana.

The Overdose Data to Action grant is part of the CDC’s second wave of funding public health projects with the intention of creating surveillance and prevention strategies to use data to reduce opioid use.These funds are intended for the creation of data-driven surveillance and prevention strategies to reduce opioid use.

The drug overdose rate in Louisiana was more than twice the national average between 2013 and 2017. This was fueled by the opioid prescription rate, which reached a high of 123 prescriptions per 100 people in 2013. As of 2018, that has fallen to 96 prescriptions per 100 people.

“Through this grant, we will be able to build upon our ongoing work to extend and enhance treatment options, research and data systems to ensure we are taking the appropriate actions to help the most people,” said Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary of the Office of Public Health. “With more reliable and precise data, we will be also be able to focus our efforts when and where they are most needed.”

The Office of Public Health will use the funds to focus on two components of its opioid surveillance programs meant to comprehensively, and quantitatively describe the crisis in the state: collecting and reporting data and new prevention activities focused on approaches to reduce the crisis by addressing social factors and health disparities. Surveillance programs allow the state to comprehensively and quantitatively characterize the crisis in the state.

These surveillance initiatives include:

  • Expanding the state’s ability to make data-driven decisions in treatment and prevention efforts
  • Expanding surveillance of stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, and
  • Adding projects that measure health outcomes and socioeconomic indicators.

New prevention activities, which are a part of limiting addiction and increasing social support systems, include:

  • Connecting people with opioid use disorders to education, prevention awareness, healthcare resources and treatment services,
  • Linking people using injection drugs and opioids to care and harm reduction programming to prevent the transmission of hepatitis C,
  • Providing annual training to pharmacies, medical societies and academic programs to teach these groups of the hazards associated with prescription pain medication use, and
  • Creating projects that focus on families, youth and teens, justice-involved individuals, low-income women and patients in rural areas.

The Department will also partner with the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, Louisiana State Coroner’s Association, Louisiana Public Health Institute, Louisiana Supreme Court Drug Specialty Courts, Louisiana 2-1-1, Louisiana Board of Nursing and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission as part of the grant.