WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson County lawmakers want an even better handle on a recent spike in drug overdoses by encouraging local rescue squads to use a free tool that tracks overdoses.
"We're trying to hit it from every angle and we are trying to save lives," Stephen Jennings from the county's Public Health office told county legislators Tuesday night.
"Four of them were in the city, one was outside the city, and one fatality," Jennings said.
"Obviously it is a very compelling topic at the moment and they wanted to get a lay of the land of the data," Jennings said of the lawmakers.
Jennings resented hospital, emergency department, overdose death data, and first-responder data. He says Jefferson County is labeled as a high-intensity drug trafficking area.
That means there is a significant amount of illegal drug activity having a harmful impact in the community, which requires federal aid to combat.
Some of that aid is being used in the community now, through a tool called ODMAP . It’s a database that alerts health officials about overdoses in real time, but Jennings says not every first responder is using it.
"We know with information we can respond better with the community and the quicker we have it, the better the response, which is why we are looking at first responders to see how they can help us with what they are seeing on the scene and reporting that back and we can report the public," Jennings said.
Jennings has data from the Thousand Islands Rescue Service, South Jefferson ambulance, and the town of Watertown. Jennings and legislators say they will work to get more on board.
"The legislators will go back to their districts, if people who aren't participating, and encourage their first responders to participate in the program," Legislature chair Scott Gray said.
Lawmakers also want to ensure that people who need help can get it quickly from any substance abuse treatment groups.
“If you can get that real-time information about what’s happening and where it’s happening,” Jennings said, that’s what we want to get out to the community and hopefully try to save lives."