SuperTalk Mississippi

DPS and Mississippi coroners increase efforts to track drug overdose deaths

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications Inc.

The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Coroners and Medical Examiners Association have announced new efforts to track drug overdose deaths occurring in the state of Mississippi.  MBN Director John Dowdy said the accuracy of the data is important as historically, drug overdoses rise each year.  Efforts to combat the opioid epidemic are better focused when opioid overdose statistics are correct.

In 2017, the Bureau of Narcotics, the state’s Coroner’s, and Medical Examiners achieved significant cooperation with over 50 of the Coroners and Medical Examiners reporting drug overdose deaths to the Bureau of Narcotics. The cooperation produced a grim statistic with an estimated 255 drug overdose deaths being reported statewide.

“When I started at MBN in November of 2016, reporting of drug overdoses was less than effective,” said MBN Director John Dowdy. “After increased communications and efforts throughout 2017, the plan moving forward is to build upon what we started last year. Through conversations with and input from Coroners around the state, we believe that an excellent cooperative effort has been born and will continue to grow. The State’s Coroners and Medical Examiners do a good job in their counties and have expressed their willingness to improve the reporting of drug overdose deaths, which is a step in a positive direction.

Dowdy said that knowing the number of overdose deaths helps them know to shift their resources.

“It helps us know where we need to put other resources, including Narcan distribution, which is a key thing for us in terms of making sure that local law enforcement has that in those areas that are most effected.” 

Electronic reporting and the response of Bureau of Narcotics Agents to the scene of drug overdose deaths are some of the new efforts to assist in providing the state with an accurate overdose statistic. The Bureau of Narcotics and the state’s Coroners and Medical Examiners are committed to improved interaction and communication in order to assist in the accurate reporting of overdose deaths.

However, Dowdy said that other agencies will benefit from knowing how many drug overdoses are occuring in the state.

“That vital statistic on drug overdoses could impact their [state agencies] ability to get grant money,” Dowdy said. “It’s not just a number, plus it gives you a reality of how serious the situation is.”

Ginger Meriwether, President of the Coroners and Medical Examiners Association of Mississippi said that they will continue to work with the MBN to report and enhance the reporting mechanism that they have been working on.

“We feel it is a joint effort and look forward to continuing the partnership with the Bureau of Narcotics to effectively address drug overdoses across the state,” Meriwether said.

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