Overdose deaths in Indiana have reached record highs. Indiana University researchers hope to improve prevention efforts using a new federal grant.
The $5.4 million grant comes from the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term – or HEAL – Data2Action Initiative. Over the course of five years, it allows researchers to work with overdose fatality review teams in 19 Indiana counties to measure harm reduction efforts. Overdose fatality review teams determine factors that may have caused a person’s fatal overdose, and then use that information to inform policy and prevention measures.
The goal is to get data to people like policymakers faster, said Indiana University professor of pediatrics and project lead Matthew Aalsma.
“By providing timely overdose data, reducing the leg of this information from months to perhaps weeks, maybe even days, then local jurisdictions will know about any new drug mix hitting the system that's leading to this increase in deaths,” Aalsma said. “So that can lead to hopefully more actionable information.”
Aalsma said data can help identify trends that can better inform communities on how to reduce overdoses in their area.
“And we know that what's going to be going on in a very rural county, like Pulaski, like Wabash, that's going to be very different than more populous counties like Allen or Marion,” Aalsma said.
IU School of Informatics and Computing associate professor and project leader Khairi Reda will aggregate the data and create visualizations to highlight opportunities to create harm reduction services to those most at risk of overdose.
“Our dashboards will help overdose fatality review teams dig into the data to determine if there are appropriate circumstances where care can be provided and then implemented to contribute to lowering overdose deaths in Indiana," Reda said in a news release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Indiana had the 13th most overdoses in the nation in 2020. An estimated 2,755 Hoosiers died of drug overdoses last year, which experts largely attribute to the pervasiveness of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.
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