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Fayetteville Helps National Effort To 'Map' Opioid Crisis

Deaths from drug overdose have surpassed homicides in North Carolina.
Deaths from drug overdose have surpassed homicides in North Carolina.

Fayetteville is part of a nationwide project that is trying to compile information about the opioid crisis. 

The non-profit New America is working with about a dozen cities to create maps on opioid overdoses and how to prevent them.

Fayetteville in particular is sharing information about where and when first responders use the emergency drug Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose. Mapping that information is a practice called data visualization, which has been effective in understanding certain crises, according to rhe project's leader Jeremiah Lindemann.

"There are still so many people who might see the numbers on the news and just be quickly dismissive of it," Lindemann said. "But when they see it's in their backyard or their kid's school is in a hotspot where people are dying or getting arrested, they're much more inclined to pay attention."

Last year, Fayetteville was ranked in the top 20 nationwide for highest rates of prescription opioid abuse. The city has since organized a task force to study the crisis.

The Opioid Mapping Initiative is also compiling preventative data, such as mapping pharmacies that carry Naloxone. Lindemann curates yet another interactive map that commemorates people who have died from opioid overdoses.

"Family members can go, and they can upload someone that they've lost and add a little bio, really to break the stigma around the epidemic and show that it's happening to all walks of life," he said.

Lindemann's younger brother died of an overdose more than 10 years ago. He said he hopes the data helps authorities deploy their resources more effectively. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 33,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2015.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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