New Orleans overdose deaths outpacing homicides

Fatal overdoses from the last six months already exceeded the count for 2015

NEW ORLEANS — Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse said there were 65 opioid deaths in New Orleans this year as of May 31, compared with just 47 homicides over the same period. 

Fatal overdoses from heroin and the more potent fentanyl, which Rouse said accounts for a growing toll, from the first five months of the year had already outpaced the count for all of 2015, when 63 deaths were attributed to opioid overdoses. 

"I shudder to think what these numbers may look like in two to three years," Rouse said to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The coroner shared the numbers this Wednesday at the latest City Council Criminal Justice committee meeting, where his agency and others provided budget updates. An increase in the number of state-mandated toxicology tests his office ordered to classify overdose deaths was responsible, in part, for a slight budget overrun, Rouse said. 

Even with a summer surge in homicides, opioid deaths are believed to be keeping pace in New Orleans. Though the coroner's office has been a bit behind on obtaining toxicology reports since May, Rouse anticipates overdose numbers to continue their upward trend.

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