SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Louisiana Department of Health is attacking opioid addiction in northwest Louisiana with a new partnership and 24-hour access to treatment

Fatal overdoses involving opioids have steadily increased in Louisiana.

According to the Louisiana opioid data and surveillance system, opioid-involved deaths increased by 67-percent in the last two years.

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Director at Ochsner LSU Health Center Shawn McNeil, MD says opioid use disorder symptoms are different for everyone, but addiction is most commonly linked to abuse of prescription medicines.

“Sometimes, you know, it’s because they’ve been prescribed an opioid pain medication from a doctor or after a surgical procedure,” McNeil said. “That’s very common. Most people don’t end up addicted but some people do end up with dependence on these medications, and then you’ll see other people start to use opioids recreationally and that’s their first contact with drugs like this.”

The state is creating access through the LDH Office of Behavioral Health.

The LDH is expanding access to opioid treatment services in Shreveport through a partnership with a behavioral health group.

“This really opens it up for counseling and peer recovery resources,” Natashia Cheatham the Regional Director of The Center for Behavioral Health said. “We’re open to receiving calls to meet anyone in the community that may be struggling with opioid use disorder or diseases of addiction. Or sometimes people call and they are struggling and don’t exactly know either way.”

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The partnership has increased funding from LDH to expand workforce capacity. The facility will now provide 24/7 service at The Center for Behavioral Health on Line avenue.

The clinic is an outpatient treatment facility that allows patients to receive necessary medication and counseling while continuing their daily lives.

“Addiction is chronic and it is progressive,” Cheatham said. “It is a disease and it’s not always going to work the first time, it may not always work the second time. But it is the willingness and the fortitude of the person and having the support system around it.”

The LDH Office of Behavioral Health will provide similar services in Hammond, La. expected to open in June.