Drug overdoses continuing to rise in Central Louisiana

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 4:35 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:59 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - 2020 was the deadliest year on record in the United States, as the numbers were primarily driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, but drug overdoses also rose to record numbers.

The U.S. recorded 93,000 deaths due to drug overdoses last year, a 29% increase from the year prior. Last year in Louisiana, there was an increase every month in the number of drug-related deaths from 2019, especially in the opioid poisoning category.

Drug-related deaths in Louisiana from 2019-2020
Drug-related deaths in Louisiana from 2019-2020(LDH)

So far in 2021, health officials say that trend has continued.

“What we’re dealing with when it comes to opioids is not just a drug overdose or a pill overdose, they are mixing this stuff,” said Paul Fuselier, the Acadian Ambulance Relations Manager in Alexandria. “When they’re mixing these drugs, alone they are dangerous, but when you combine some of them, it becomes extremely dangerous and fatal.”

Fuselier said over the last four months, they’ve responded to nearly 160 calls of opioid overdoses just in Rapides Parish - an average of over one call per day. He added that the number of opioid overdoses doubles when they include the other local parishes that they respond to.

“It’s very concerning, because, first of all, it can be prevented,” said Fuselier.

Rehabilitation centers and advocacy groups have had to work day and night to fight this deadly battle. Fresh Start Ministry in Winnsboro said 80 percent of its patients are opioid addicts and the main drugs being seen are heroin and fentanyl.

Lilly Harvey joined Fresh Start back in 2016.

“I have mothers contacting me saying that they don’t know what to do,” Harvey said. “Honestly, consequences have to get to that point where you will either turn yourself around and stop the addiction or it could get worse.”

Harvey also started an advocacy group called Millie Mattered after she learned through personal experiences that those addicted must be willing to go out and get help.

“I lost a child to overdose,” Harvey said. “That was not her nature. She was not an addict. She made a bad choice that day. Me personally, I’m surprised that I’m still alive here talking to you.”

If you have a loved one looking for help, you can visit the Millie Mattered Facebook page for a list of detox centers. You can also visit Fresh Start Ministries website for more resources,

United Way announced it is partnering with the Louisiana Department of Health to help those suffering from opioid abuse. You can call 211 or text the keyword “opioid” to 898-211.

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