AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city’s top health officials hope an overdose tracking map can help curb the growing epidemic. Officials say an app to execute this is in the works.
“A lot of times these are caused by injection of new drug or substance into community,” said Allen Johnson, the CPO of ESO Solutions, the company behind the technology. “And as that is sold or passed through community, you can watch the wave – and this allows EMS, hospitals and law enforcement to hopefully get ahead of it.”
Dr. Mark Escott, the city’s chief medical officer, said Austin needs this technology now more than ever.
“Last month we experienced the highest rates of overdoses, 120 calls to 911 for overdoses, which is 100% over the average we’ve had over the past 12 months,” he said. “The trends that we’re seeing make it challenging for us to address the situation. It’s concerning, because a lot of these overdoses are leading to deaths.”
He said eight people died from overdoses last month, most of them during a rash of incidents that happened the week before South by Southwest, which police stay stemmed from a batch of bad drugs circulating downtown.
“With the drugs on the street, I think it’s very difficult to be able to manage or control, but at some point somebody’s got to be held accountable,” said Michelle Noyola who lost her son to an overdose two years ago.
She was told fentanyl was in his system but said that’s the only information she’s been given since.
“It was just trying to figure out what happened, why it happened, how it happened. Trying to get some answers which, to date, we still don’t have,” Noyola said.
The mapping software would help provide emergency agencies with quick access to the entire scope of an overdose by connecting EMS overdose data with patients’ medical information.
“This allows real-time tracking of the spread of overdose events in communities,” said Johnson. “So you can track the progression and movement.”
Once it’s implemented, according to Escott, it will help city leaders come up with better strategies and make necessary changes to public policy.
“Soon we’ll be able to take that data and create heat maps across our community, which includes hotspots but also shows us variations and outcomes based on where people live,” he said.
Austin-Travis County EMS says it used its own similar mapping system during the K2 spike.
In 2018, APD launched a special operation to crack down on people accused of dealing the illegal synthetic cannabinoid, which contains industrial chemicals. The Narcotics Conspiracy Team caught several suspects through surveillance cameras the team set up to target the dealers.