West Baton Rouge Parish Council Chairman and retired firefighter Gary “Sprout” Spillman responded to news Tuesday regarding declining opioids prescriptions in the region. Spillman, a Democratic candidate for the vacant House District 18 seat, has long supported new tools to measure and utilize opioid prescription data to seek grant-based funding to better understand the epidemic facing the Capital region and the state during his time as a member of the Capital Area Human Services District Board (2010-present).

Data on the recently created Louisiana Opioid Data and Surveillance System website tracks opioid related deaths and prescriptions and shows that the number of prescriptions in the Capital Region dropped from 2015 to 2017. However, during the same time period, the number of drug related deaths–many of which were opioid related–grew.

“As a former emergency response personnel with a lifetime in firsthand experience, I know how communities like ours are hit the hardest by this," said Spillman. "We’re in a fight for our future, and I’m going to Baton Rouge to fight to keep our hard-earned progress moving forward.” 

Through his work on the Human Services Board–which recently released a community-wide response plan to the opioid epidemic–Spillman has proudly fought for increased investments in behavioral health and addiction treatment services by advocating for increased awareness and improving access to critical services.

Some data on deaths, opioid-related emergency room visits and other related pieces of the opioid crisis aren’t yet available to state officials, medical providers and emergency responders trying to fight the crisis. Spillman said more data is needed to fulfill the long-term goals of acquiring federal grants, and better understanding the patterns of commercial and other drug use that lead to addiction and death. 

Spillman said he will look to partner with other legislators to grow policies that have previously proved successful, including leveraging the new surveillance data into federal investments for more successful drug treatment, better long-term law enforcement solutions for dealers and distributors, and increased education for young people before they have a chance to get addicted.

Spillman will be on the ballot to replace newly elected Point Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut in a special election on February 23. Thibaut leaves District 18 after 10 years of service.  

“Look, there is always bureaucracy, excuses and certainly special interests at play. But there is no room for profit-driven ideas or greed at the table when lives are at stake," Spillman said. "I've dedicated a lifetime to saving lives in the Capital region, and I’m ready for this fight."

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