Arkansas currently has the second highest opioid prescribing rate in the nation and some of the highest rates of opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths. A recent grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will help Arkansas improve its response to the drug epidemic and opioid-related deaths. It will also fund the creation of a comprehensive data repository system, enabling health care and law enforcement to work together using more timely data about drug misuse and opioid-related deaths.
No comprehensive view of drug misuse
Addressing the opioid abuse epidemic begins with collection and analysis of data showing the extent and location of the problem. Once timely data are readily available, the state can more effectively identify and employ community resources to respond to the epidemic. Currently, there is no common platform for health care data such as overdoses, hospital admissions/discharges, and medical examiner and coroner mortality data. Similarly lacking is a common platform to readily share drug crime data among law enforcement agencies, nor is it possible for health care and law enforcement agencies to share data. Arkansas does not have a comprehensive view of its drug abuse environment.
Arkansas faces two important barriers to formulating effective policies to address fatal overdoses:
- Death certificates often inaccurately reflect the role of drugs in the cause of death, reporting them as “undetermined manner of death.” This prevents a clear understanding of geographic differences in opioid-related deaths and prevents quick reactions when deadly new drugs enter our communities.
- The reporting of overdose deaths takes months to one year, dangerously delaying public health and law enforcement responses to a rapidly changing drug abuse landscape. Stakeholders and policy makers need to understand the circumstances of an overdose in order to coordinate prevention and treatment efforts and effectively allocate limited resources.
Create a comprehensive data dashboard
The DOJ grant was awarded to the Arkansas Drug Director’s Office and AFMC as a subrecipient. AFMC will partner with other key state agencies and organizations to bring together unique data sources. These data will be used to create a comprehensive data repository, allowing law enforcement, researchers, policy makers, the medical community and other critical stakeholders to access timely information to address the state’s opioid misuse problem.
AFMC will develop an online dashboard that will present various data sources in meaningful and actionable formats, while maintaining individual confidentiality. These data will be available for in-depth research and help identify spikes in drug crimes, areas of special need and resource gaps.
Key participants who will join AFMC on this project include the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Aging, Adult & Behavioral Health Services, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Arkansas Coroners’ Association and the Arkansas Hospital Association. Additional data-sharing partners will be identified during year one of the grant period.