Dallas joins project mapping overdoses

Overdose mapping launched years ago to help communities

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The Dallas County District Attorney said Thursday that the City of Dallas has finally joined the overdose mapping project that he has been promoting for years.

Dallas was a hold-out over privacy concerns regarding the release of medical information. The lack of Dallas data left a large gap in maps supported by the federal government.

Irving Police have been sharing their data on overdoses since 2019 to help watch for spikes.

“Maybe that means we need more proactive officers in that area, kind of finding where the crime is coming from or what the drugs are,” said Irving Officer Bethany Vidaurri.

Because North Texas is a "High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area," the federal government provides the mapping program, but relies on input from individual communities.

The number of tragedies in North Texas has been soaring from deadly fentanyl. Ruben Pena’s 21-year-old granddaughter Angelina Rogers died in October 2020.

“I think the mapping would be a great step. That way you go to those sections and make people more aware of what’s going on,” he said.

Her grandfather said Angelina had just started a business after attending cosmetology school. She’d run out of painkillers after surgery and he said she took what she thought was oxytocin from a friend of a friend in Dallas. It turned out to be a fatal dose of fentanyl.

Dallas was not mapping overdoses at the time.

“I think we need to really prosecute the ones that are giving these or selling these tablets or lacing the pills with fentanyl,” Pena said.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said he worked to get overdose mapping more widely used to help save families from grief.

“I know lives will be saved, yes. If we can understand the patterns, we can intervene and stop more things,” Creuzot said.

After asking many questions, the top prosecutor was finally told that Dallas was not participating because of advice from the city attorney at the time that sharing overdose data could violate privacy laws about medical information, even though the mapping did not include names or other personal information.

Creuzot went to Austin with city officials for a new law that clarified a privacy exception for sharing overdose mapping data.

“It’s really a testament in an interesting way of breaking down silos, and city government and county government working together to solve a problem that’s a crisis,” Creuzot.  

The DA’s office said Dallas Fire Rescue has confirmed it is now sharing data daily for overdose mapping. The goal now is getting all cities onboard with roadblocks removed for mapping to better combat fentanyl deaths.

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