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Overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge outpacing record set in 2020

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 6:44 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish is outpacing a record set in 2020 for overdose deaths.

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Already in 2021, the EBR Coroner’s Office is reporting 131 deaths from overdose. That number is on pace to match or exceed the 241 that died last year.

“Many of these calls are young healthy people that are dying and ending their lives very prematurely,” said Mike Chustz, a paramedic, and spokesman for EMS. “You don’t just leave that scene and wipe it out of your memory. It bothers you.”

Chustz said on average paramedics are responding to at least five overdose calls every day, that only accounts for the metro Baton Rouge area.

“When you’re dealing with stuff like that, it’s just so unnecessary,” Chustz said. “It’s frustrating, it’s difficult to deal with.”

Baton Rouge is following a national trend that is also playing out across the Capital Region. Nearly every parish surrounding East Baton Rouge is reporting increases. According to the Livingston Parish Coroners Office, 35 od’s have been reported with several more autopsy’s awaiting results. In 2020, that number was 33.

“[We’re seeing] Significant increases in substance use whether it’s related to the loss of job or other pandemic related stressors,” said Neil Watkins, a Behavioral Counselor with Baton Rouge General.

Watkins specializes in working with patients battling addiction. He said despite the pandemic and its restrictions easing, he is still seeing the repercussions from the increase in opioid use from last year.

He said the most commonly abused drugs he sees patients addicted to are opioids like heroin and fentanyl, and alcohol.

If you have a loved one who is addicted, he says to be patient and be ready to lend a helping hand when they are ready to seek help.

“They might fail multiple times but that doesn’t mean they’re going to fail for the long haul,” Watkins said. “So just stay with it, be patient with them, and listen to what they’re saying.”

If you have a loved one who is addicted, there is help. Websites like SAMHSA can help locate treatment centers. There are also local centers like Jefferson Oaks Behavioral Health, the Bridge Center of Hope, O’Brien House, The Grove Recovery Center, and many others.

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