Our Opioid Crisis

June 28, 2016 by Melissa Crowe

Our Opioid Crisis

Every day in America, more than 50 people die from opioid drug abuse, according to the CDC. Based on figures from 2014, nearly 30,000 Americans lost their lives to an overdose of opioids, a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription pain medications.

This spring, local leaders from across the country came together to address the opioid epidemic at the National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic. The task force is comprised of 24 members and is a joint initiative by the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo). The group calls upon leaders at the city, county, state, and federal levels to work together to fight this crisis. In April, at the task force's inaugural meeting, Socrata had the opportunity to share a narrative using CDC data. This week, we followed up with the task force for an update on their work.

"The numbers are staggering. So many of our nation's residents are impacted by the opioid epidemic every day, and they are looking for help from their local officials," said Cleveland Councilmember Matt Zone, who also serves as NLC's first vice president. "The opioid epidemic is a difficult challenge with no easy solutions. That's why the National League of Cities and NACo are working in partnership to equip local officials with tools and resources, so that local officials can be prepared to address this epidemic in their communities."


In the weeks ahead, the task force will continue to engage in a national dialogue where city and county leaders will explore the main impacts of this crisis and comprehensive responses that have proven to be effective. They will convene special forums, webinars, and other opportunities to engage with national experts, federal, state, and other partners; later this year, the task force will publish a national summary report with policy recommendations and best practices that promote prevention and education, effective treatment options, public safety, and community wellness.

So many have been affected by this crisis that almost everyone knows a story of a family affected by opioid abuse, even in the smallest and most remote towns in the U.S. — whether by HIV infection from shared needles, the impact of crime committed to support a drug habit, or the death of a loved one. It's imperative that a solution is found quickly. In order for the solution to be effective, the true scope of the problem must be understood. Communities are looking for public health and law enforcement solutions to this crisis. A holistic approach is needed, and open data can help governments understand the scope of the problem.

In Seattle, city officials are using crime data to track the number of incidents, locations, and types of crimes related to drug use. Law enforcement and public health agencies are working together to break the cycle of incarceration, and look for ways to support people struggling with addiction.

In Indiana, the Management Performance Hub works in tandem with a drug data dashboard. Indiana leaders have enlisted the help of local agencies, including forensic labs, to track and visualize where illegal substances are being found. The team compares opioid death data against treatment provider geospatial data to determine where gaps in detox and treatment facilities exist.

Effective strategies for combating opioid abuse will require accurate data and cross-departmental collaboration. State and local governments need to understand what's happening in their communities, so they can enact meaningful policy, and measure the effectiveness of their actions.

Interested in learning more? Get the facts here.

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