Polk first responders to have overdose mapping tools
A major problem with controlling the illegal drug trade is tracking where product is coming from, and where it is going.
That is especially the case with opioids, which can come from a variety of places around the world and when distributed to customers on the street, can be cut with anything from baby powder to fentanyl, which in years past and present continues to kill users in overdoses across the country.
Now there’s an effort underway to collect as much data as allowed about overdose cases in order to track where those opioids are coming from, and how they get onto the street and what harm they cause in the process.
That’s the mission of people like William Trivelpiece, a law enforcement veteran who works with the federal government in an effort to get first responders to offer up information in real time about where overdoses are happening, and some circumstances behind the care of patients.
“The overdoses that are happening aren’t just opioid-based anymore,” Trivelpiece said in a presentation he gave on Feb. 26 to local first responders about efforts to gather more information. “You know better than I do that the king drug is still meth. The No. 2 drug for your county is cocaine, and the third drug is some type of opioid.”
He said that part of the problem is that when drugs like methamphetamines are being processed, dealers will add in opioids into the mix so users will get a greater effect from the drug, but don’t realize what they are using.
Trivelpiece was previously an Atlanta Police Department officer with more than two decades of experience on the job before he retired, and then moved onto a job helping fight drug trafficking. Polk County was likely one of his final presentations as organizers of the Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s (HIDTA) portion of the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP,) which he is seeking to get more areas involved in tracking of overdose cases on the national level.
Though he’s moving up to a new role, he’ll still be involved in the program, which is an effort to get as much data as possible about drug trafficking of opioids and the effects they have immediately on people.
Trivelpiece showed off an app that first responders can use in the field to immediately report data on an overdose, which links up to the national database and mapping capabilities that then produce real-time data about where overdoses are happening. He’s seeking to get Polk County involved and include their information along with 23 in Georgia already sending in data.
The increasing number of overdoses are coming closer to home. Just in January alone, Haralson County had the highest rate based on population of overdoses throughout the state, on a per 100,000 people average, they had 60 for the month.
“Another county that is pretty close is Bartow,” he said. “Bartow has consistently for the past year been in the Top 5. and you guys lie right next to two of those counties.”
Trivelpiece said that 46 states across the country also participate in the mapping program in one way or another.
One way to solve the opioid crisis is through gathering data.
In the area around the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA where a test pilot program of mapping started ODMAP in three counties in West Virginia and one in Maryland, the information gathered on spikes in opioid overdoses — which happened twice during the pilot program — allowed law enforcement to see the pattern of drug trafficking through the region.
When a product that was causing overdoses because of fentanyl or carfentanyl ended up in the illegal opioid distribution stream, it usually hit in Baltimore first. Then about 8 hours later during spike incidents, they saw the same pattern turn up with cases in West Virginia. All told, they recorded 300 overdoses in the time of the pilot program.
That gave law enforcement the understanding that there was a delay between when Baltimore drug dealers were distributing product to end customers that was from the same batch, and then several hours for it to make its way up to dealers in northwest Maryland and West Virginia, which in turn would give agents tracking the criminals who are distributing product a better understanding of their movements.
“It’s in 1,800 jurisdictions across the country that are using it,” Trivelpiece said.
In Georgia, Trivelpiece said the data is already coming in handy in tracking overdoses in places like Augusta, where they provide the real-time data law enforcement can then go back and study, and hope to lead to more information that will eventually end with an arrest of suspects.
Ultimately, his trip to Polk County’s Emergency Management Agency offices on Feb. 26 meant to provide the information that first responders need about how it works, and to be able to turn around and train others on the program.
Polk County Commission Chair Jennifer Hulsey, who is also helping organize the Polk Against Drugs program, said that with representatives from law enforcement, EMS and the fire departments all on hand for the meeting, it won’t be long before the cities and county begin implementing the data sharing effort as part of their routine in the field.
“Polk County is very excited about this OD Mapping program. We know that this problem is nationwide. We are committed to being a proactive government. We want to find solutions and work with and assist our first responders any way we can,” Hulsey said. “I am excited to see the future and how we are going to tackle this nationwide problem in our community. The cities and the county are committed to making this successful and I look forward to us continuing to make progress on this issue.”
It won’t cost the county or cities any additional money to take part in ODMAP, since it provides the application and backend management of data free of charge. The software doesn’t collect any information that can identify a patient when in the field, and no data about victims are stored in the central database.
The mapping application does ask whether a victim survived or died, and how many doses of overdose reversing medications like Narcan were administered.
Depending on the software used, it can take only five to 30 seconds for the data to show up on a national level. Previous efforts to get information usually had a 72-hour lag from data getting from the field into the hands of those who need to study it for trends and clues toward ultimate arrests.
“They don’t have to be on the scene to register the information,” Trivelpiece added.
As long as 911 operators have the software on their terminals, they can provide the information if first responders don’t have immediate availability to do so, such as a lack of good signal coverage in the most rural parts of the county. Reports are compiled weekly as well and provided to officials.
Local officials listened to a presentation about getting overdose mapping applications into the hands of first responders free of charge.