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Louisiana 211 launches Opioid Crisis Referral and Crisis Texting Program: Growing concern over skyrocketing numbers of opioid fatalities

Baton Rouge. In the last 18 months, the number of opioid overdoses has skyrocketed in Louisiana and many in need don’t know where to turn for help. Louisiana 211 is stepping up to connect Louisianans with help and resources. Texting the word OPIOID to 898-211 is a new, free way to find help, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout the state of Louisiana. Texting OPIOID to 898-211 provides access to local resources in the moment with the ability to connect those in need to live crisis support.

Opioid statistics are shocking — especially in Louisiana where opioid overdose deaths jumped 60% from 2019 to 2020 from 539 to 862. Adding in overdoses caused by synthetic opioids and the total jumps to 1500 deaths in 2020 – up from 852 in 2019 (numbers provided by the Louisiana Department of Health). Even worse, the 2021 numbers are on track to be even higher.

Texting the word OPIOID to 898-211 is a new way to connect people to a variety of assistance through 211 — whether you need support personally, family members who need support from a loved one who is struggling with opioid misuse, first responders, law enforcement, medical and mental health providers who need to connect people to additional help after an overdose or relapse. Anyone in Louisiana can text the word OPIOID to 898-211 for confidential help and connection to resources.

“Giving Louisianians a new, confidential way to get this information was mission critical for us,” said Sarah Berthelot, president and CEO of Louisiana Association of United Ways. “Whether the information is for themselves or their loved ones, calling or texting 211, gives those in need a place to start finding the information that could save a life.”

National opioid statistics are also concerning — more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the U.S. last year, a record number that reflects a rise of nearly 30% from 2019, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“In Louisiana, the number of opioid overdoses is astounding. And what already was a crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Center for Health Statistics predicts Louisiana’s overdoses will rise by more than 40% this year,” said Dr. Courtney Phillips, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. “The 211 OPIOID texting program is a key part of Louisiana’s strategy to address the opioid crisis. So many times individuals and the families who love them don’t know where to turn.”

Texting the word OPIOID to 898-211 gives people information about local opioid services in or near their zip code for detox, treatment and other supportive services with the ability to opt-in for live crisis intervention text support.

“Louisiana 211 continues to explore new and ambitious ways technology can connect people around the state with the help they need when they need it. Providing equitable access to help and resources is a priority for our statewide team,” Berthelot said.

Gerrelda Davis, executive director, Louisiana Primary Care Association, agrees that the situation in Louisiana is dire.

“The opioid crisis in Louisiana is already overwhelming — and the numbers are on the rise. We are grateful that Louisiana 211 is stepping up to connect people with resources as this mission aligns with our own commitment of achieving health care access for all,” said Davis. “We believe healthcare access is the foundation to building healthier communities.”

Louisianans can always call 211 and reach specialists who are trained to address the root causes of a caller’s problem. By dialing 211, those seeking help can access information and local referrals to meet their needs, whether it’s COVID-19, food, disaster assistance, crisis counseling, health care or housing.

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ABOUT Louisiana 211

The Louisiana 211 Statewide Network is: 232-HELP/211, Capital Area United Way, United Way of Central Louisiana, United Way of Northeast Louisiana, United Way of Northwest Louisiana, United Way of Southwest Louisiana, VIA LINK/211 and the Louisiana Association of United Ways.

ABOUT Louisiana  211 Opioid Texting Program

The Louisiana 211 Opioid Texting Program is funded by the “Opioid Data to Action” grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health’s, Bureau of Community Preparedness.

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