MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nassau County Police have unveiled a new tool that will help them fight the opioid epidemic.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports more than 115 Americans die every day of an opioid overdose.
Nassau County police can now map overdoses, pinpointing locations through an app to track down dealers and get help to addicts. The ODMap will allow police and health officials to view overdoses in Nassau County using real-time data and mapping.
“We need it real-time to address the issue quickly. We need it real-time to turn around and get the help out there that’s needed,” Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.
First responders will use the ODMap every time they identify a drug overdose, and it will help them identify hotspots.
“By going after this and mapping the hotspots, it will allow us to then focus on the people that need to be arrested – the dealers; we’ll get the sellers — and at the same time, get a reduction in our crime in the area,” Ryder said.
Overlays enable officers to map overdoses and car break-ins, which are often fueled by addiction.
“The heroin user will go into a community, jiggle the door handles until he gets a car, go in, steal what he can steal out of your car and then use that money to help his habit,” Ryder said.
The app will help target patrols, education and treatment and alert the public if a spike in overdoses is coming from a fentanyl-contaminated batch of heroin and cocaine.
“If there is three to four overdoses in a one to two mile radius in a 24-hour period we’ll get an email on our phone alerting us that we have overdoses,” Ryder said. “We’ll look at it right away to see if it’s a bad batch and then we’ll do a public service announcement to get it out there that we do have a bad batch of heroin on the street. All of it is bad, but some of it is extreme.”
Last month alone, Nassau County tracked 46 victims of opioid overdoses.
“We’ve buried too many of our young people, and this is a scourge on our communities,” said Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford.
“We’re seeing people from affluent communities and non-affluent communities dying every day,” said Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker. “We have to constantly be innovative in our ideas to combat this problem.”
After six years in recover, Tatiana Green is now an addiction counselor with Onwardforever.com. She welcomes the innovation, but is skeptical.
“You can map out and see where like where is a bad batch of heroin is, but the overall problem of finding dealers – there’s always going to be another dealer,” Green said.
“We wouldn’t need a map if we were doing a great job when it came to prevention, access to treatment for those who are struggling, and support for people in recovery,” added Jeffrey Reynolds, chief executive officer of Family and Children’s Services. “So our hope is one day we’ll no longer need a map to look at the fatalities across Long Island.”
The real-time map is already being used in other cities from Baltimore on north. It is free through a federal program.
Police say it is not the final answer, but it is another tool in a war we are not winning.
Nassau County had 140 opioid deaths last year, with 66,000 nationwide.
Three hundred agencies from 26 states are now using ODMap, which was rolled out last year. It includes Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties.