Public officials say opioid deaths an epidemic after 41 deaths in 2021

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:03 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Forty-one people have died from opioid overdoses in Calcasieu since the start of the year, Calcasieu Coroner Terry Welke said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Welke had a slide prepared that showed 40 opioid deaths but said another had been reported prior to the news conference.

In some cases, a nasal spray known as Naloxone or Narcan can reverse overdoses due to opioids. Call 337-930-2286 for information on how to get Narcan through the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center.

Public health officials are calling the deaths an epidemic as the number of people who have died from opioid overdoses this year averages out to more than two people per week.

“We have to do something to stop that trajectory,” said Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, Region 5 health director for the Louisiana Department of Health.

Public health officials say Fentanyl is driving the deaths.

A tiny amount can be fatal and many illegal drugs are being laced with Fentanyl.

Just two years ago, 21-year-old Noble died after taking Percocet laced with Fentanyl. Tanya McGee was his aunt.

“Just for our family, it’s just so hard losing somebody when you know that it’s something that could have been preventable,” McGee said.

McGee is an addiction counselor.

“That’s what I do for a living,” she said. “I run treatment programs. I wasn’t able to help him. I wasn’t able to save him. So, that weighs on me.”

McGee and others in the medical community have joined forces to fight the opioid epidemic.

Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke is determined to stop it.

“This is like Russian roulette,” Welke said.

Welke said when illegal drugs are bought online or on the street, purchasers don’t know what they’re getting.

Fentanyl slows down breathing, which can lead to death.

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