4. How cities are getting better data on opioids
CityLab has a really interesting story about how local governments are trying to come up with better data to help them get a fuller picture of opioid abuse in their communities, and the new treatment tools they’re developing in the process.
The problem: The most comprehensive opioid-related record-keeping is about overdose deaths, but that data set doesn’t tell the whole story.
Some solutions, per CityLab:
1. Cary, N.C., is planning to “deploy small robots into the sewage system to collect samples of the city’s waste."
- The samples will be measured for their concentration of opioid metabolites, which get flushed out of bodies after opioid consumption.”
- That will help the city gain a better understanding of which types of drugs people are using, in which parts of the city.
2. In the Baltimore/Washington area, first responders enter suspected overdoses immediately into a mobile app, color-coded for fatalities and whether they administered naloxone, giving health officials the ability to almost immediately spot spikes and redirect their resources accordingly.
What’s next: First responders in and around Annapolis, Md., are also using new tools to help find open treatment beds.
- Because overdoses outnumber available beds, “teams would have to call as many as 30 different centers” to find an opening.
- With the new tool, treatment centers update their availability twice a day into an app, which then feeds into a “dashboard” that first responders can search, based on a specific patient’s needs.
The catch: “Ideally the national government would set a framework so that we get consistent data, and cities will implement those frameworks,” University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm told CityLab.
- But in the absence of such a program, he said, cities are filling the gaps themselves.