To prevent overdose and overdose deaths in U.S. communities, substance use treatment providers and harm reduction organizations need to know where the people who need their services are. Current data sources, however, are unable to identify fatal or nonfatal overdose hotspots beyond the county or ZIP code level.

“We know there are places that are being underserved,” says Chelsea Shover, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Medicine.

As a part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, Shover is building a publicly available online dashboard that uses real-time data from multiple sources to pinpoint overdose hotspots in Los Angeles County. Data sources include the medical examiner, first responders, syringe services programs, and safety net hospitals, which provide care for people in need regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

The dashboard aims to help treatment providers and harm reduction organizations know where to focus resources to have the biggest impact and save the most lives. Shover hopes that the resource will help scale-up harm reduction services, which help reduce certain health and safety issues associated with drug use. Distinct from treatment or recovery support, the harm reduction healthcare model has a primary goal of saving lives and protecting the health of people who use drugs and their communities.

Shover’s data dashboard will help efficiently deploy harm reduction services to people in need. The researchers have created a system that uses the data they collect in real time to  accurately predict overdoses that may occur in the very near future.

“By compiling these data, making them publicly available, and developing strong partnerships with community stakeholders, together we can make a dent in preventing overdose,” says Shover.

The dashboard, called Rapid Overdose Surveillance Los Angeles, will help predict both fatal and non-fatal overdoses and support efforts to direct harm reduction programs to the communities with the most need. While this project focuses on Los Angeles County, jurisdictions across the nation may use it as a model for how to leverage and combine data from diverse community partners to rapidly identify overdose hotspots.

Watch Shover’s full interview. [2:15 min watch]

This work is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse through the NIH HEAL Initiative.

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