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Collaboration and Technology Are Key in Battling Opioid Crisis

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Opioids were developed to help mitigate pain related to injuries and medical procedures. However, as the drug category evolved from using natural opiates into relying on synthetic, lab-made compounds, the medicines became stronger and more addictive. Misuse of prescriptions rose steadily, leading to criminal activity associated with the sale, distribution, and use of opioids as well as overdoses. Today, more than 75% of drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. These impacts of opioid addiction led to the declaration of a public health emergency in 2017, which remains today. 

Federal, state, and local governments are working to develop programs to stop the flow of opioids into communities and support those who have become addicted. 

  • The Reaching Rural Initiative brings together a cohort of local government and community leaders to collaborate virtually and in person to share resources and expertise. This program is focused on how to deliver services in rural communities that have unique challenges around funding and resources to serve a widely dispersed population.   
  • Texas recently introduced a new state law that requires all emergency medical responders to report drug overdose information to local health authorities. This requirement allows for a more complete data picture of where overdoses are happening. Health authorities can then use that information to staff up hospitals appropriately and introduce programming to stem opioid use. 

Programs like these that encourage (and even mandate) sharing data across agencies and organizations allow for technology to be layered to provide important visualizations of trends to aid in more effective planning across the spectrum of opioid crisis response. 

  • West Virginia is developing a correlation analysis model to help predict when and where fentanyl-related overdoses will happen. When an increase is identified, email alerts are sent to community stakeholders such as homeless shelters, hospitals, treatment centers, or quick-response teams to prepare them to take action. 
  • A team of researchers at Syracuse University is exploring how artificial intelligence-powered watches can monitor stress levels of patients seeking addiction treatment. When stress levels increase, the watch will alert the patient to engage in “mindfulness practices” such as breathing exercises or meditation (rather than turning to drugs).

Of course, these programs all come at a cost. Government settlements with opioid manufacturers who downplayed the addictive properties of the drugs they sold to medical professionals are being distributed to fund these programs. Settlement money is used across agencies from health departments to schools to police departments to social service agencies. 

To learn more about how government agencies are working to stem the opioid crisis check out these events and resources:

  • Emerging Technologies and Scientific Innovations: A Global Public Health Perspective (white paper) – The WHO Science Division initiated a horizon scan to identify innovations in science and technology that could improve global health, which includes addressing health needs that are frequently neglected or not addressed adequately or rapidly enough.
  • Overcoming Barriers to Data Sharing in the United States (white paper) – Overly restrictive data privacy laws and a lack of technical standards hinder sector-specific data sharing in fields such as education and health care, and the misfire of past experiments has led to both a lack of trust and data silos. This report details the challenges associated with data sharing and the steps U.S. policymakers can take to overcome these barriers and bring the social and economic benefits of data to all Americans.
  • How to Advance Public Safety with Data Management (white paper) – With federal, state, and local agencies frequently operating independently, the need for efficient and effective communication and coordination has never been more important. The ability to collect, process, and manage massive amounts of data is essential for law enforcement agencies to identify and respond to emerging threats and to carry out their mandate of keeping the public safe.
  • POLITICO’s Governor’s Summit (February 22, 2024; Washington, DC) – Governors are at the center of landmark decisions in AI and tech, economic development, infrastructure, housing, reproductive health, and energy. How are they setting the stage for the future of American politics, policies, and priorities? How are they confronting major challenges? How are they using their power to drive the national conversation? POLITICO interviews America’s governors to discuss the defining issues of the day.
  • 47th Annual Rural Health Conference (May 7-10, 2024; New Orleans, LA) – Hundreds of rural health leaders from across the country meet to help raise the standard for rural health.

More insight into battling the opioid epidemic can be found on GovWhitePapers and GovEvents.


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