New app tracking drug overdoses could help save lives across Georgia

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A drug task force is taking a new approach to fighting overdoses in Georgia, and it could save lives.

The Decatur Fire Department Assistant Chief Ninetta Violante said her staff uses automated external defibrillators, bag valve masks, IVs, Narcan and more in responding to the drug overdose crisis facing Georgia.

"We’ve had parents that have had children with ODs. One, well actually two, were dear, dear friends of mine," Violante said.

The department is in the process of adding one more tool: an overdose detection mapping app. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it gives them an unprecedented tool to track clusters of overdoses as they happen.

"It’s a significant leap forward," said Dan Salter, executive director of the Atlanta-Carolinas High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.


Atlanta-Carolinas High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area is taking the lead in getting the OD mapping app up and running in Georgia.

Salter said at overdose scenes, first responders enter information about the location and more that instantly goes to a central database.

"We've had some spikes just here recently," Salter said.

Salter said OD mapping enables law enforcement to quickly see clusters of overdoses, fatal and non-fatal, and to respond quickly to find out, as he put it, who's putting the poison on the street.

He said it's not just about arresting people.

"Public health can go into that community and look at means of treatment, prevention," Salter said.

"This is a big resource for the GBI," said Nelly Miles with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Miles said the GBI-led state fusion center will help route important information from the OD map to the right agencies.

"They can respond appropriately with enforcement in that area," Miles said.

Salter said, so far, about 40 agencies have signed up for the app.

Salter said for maximum effectiveness, hundreds more agencies need to sign up in Georgia, but the program is new.

He said he has two people out spreading the word to first responders, but he hopes to partner with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hire six more because lives can be saved if, for instance, the app shows a cluster where there's dope laced with lethal levels of fentanyl.