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Building Bridges in Data Sources to Fight the Opioid Epidemic

This blog post was written in partnership with Socrata and Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Today’s opioid crisis is a complex problem that affects governments at all levels. To make an impact on this significant problem, governments need a new approach that involves leveraging data and technology. Cloud-based technologies offer a way forward for better collaboration and data sharing sources, according to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

AWS convened the first technology-focused Opioid Crisis Council in June 2018 at the AWS Public Sector Summit. Stakeholders across various industries gathered to identify common challenges and explore disruptive cloud-based solutions to help accelerate efforts to eradicate the opioid crisis, including how open datasets can be leveraged with cloud technologies to take on the epidemic.

One partner at the forefront of this mission is the Data & Insights Division of Tyler Technologies Inc. [NYSE: TYL], which developed Socrata.

Socrata’s Data-as-a-Service platform and cloud applications were built exclusively for government. They promote collaborative success across verticals, letting local, state and federal governments work together, and with public health officials, to help solve for this critical problem affecting society.

“Cross-departmental and cross-agency collaboration happens when you have common tools providing shared insights on a common problem,” said Kevin Merritt, president of the Data & Insights Division of Tyler Technologies Inc.

Communities across the country are reporting successes after leveraging open data and cross-sector collaboration to create innovative solutions to fight the opioid crisis.

“The real magic is having multiple parties and data sources living in the same easy-to-leverage, standards-based common platform,” said Franklin Williams, vice president of product development at Tyler Technologies Inc. “We need public health organizations, provider educators, pharma manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, insurance companies and public insurance providers, treatment centers, criminal justice agencies and physicians all to provide data to a common repository with one set of user rules so that all concerned parties can work the data on their own.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced in 2018 the launch of the Pennsylvania Opioid Data Dashboard. The dashboard, built by Socrata, allows users to take a specific look at the impact of opioids on a county-by-county basis across the state. The dashboard also focuses on data sets in the three areas of opioid prevention, rescue and treatment.

“This information is vital as we all work together to help our loved ones, our neighbors and our communities who continue to be devastated by this crisis,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement.

“This information allows us to look at the areas where the opioid crisis is doing the most damage,” Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine added. “Through this data, we can see where prevention is needed, where rescue can be improved and where treatment is necessary to help those communities that have been affected the most by the opioid epidemic.”

Cincinnati uses open data to power its Heroin Tracker, a Socrata dashboard that breaks out incidents for the past 13 months by location, volume, date, time and transport outcome. It shows the neighborhoods with the highest incidents, and that incidents tend to occur from late afternoon through the evening, with the pace slowing after 8 or 9 p.m.

The information available on Cincinnati’s dashboard serves many purposes. Residents are empowered to browse data by neighborhood or by street to learn how the epidemic is affecting their neighborhood.

“We need data presented in an analytical way that helps us target our limited resources,” Brandon Crowley, Open Data and Chief Data Officer for the city of Cincinnati, wrote.

Virginia uses Socrata open-data-powered solutions to combat its opioid crisis. In 2016, 1,268 people died from opioid overdoses in the state, and 4,076 people had opioid overdose-reversing Narcan administered to them by emergency medical services, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The state decided to pool their data in a dashboard to help local partners make data-based decisions about opioid policies, programs and projects, and performance and improvement.

“Virginia saw its highest number of opioid overdoses last year,” said Shannon Dion, director of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, in a statement. “We are optimistic that with this data-sharing platform, we can develop models and real-time data to better prevent opioid use, overdoses and deaths, as well as target opioid-related crimes.”

The tool will be live later this year, and will attempt to arm state personnel with information to reduce opioid deaths by centralizing data and identifying specific regions and populations that are at risk.

Smart combinations of data and visualizations can be leveraged to equip governments to fight this crisis.

By combining justice information, mental health data and overlaying visualization engines and geospatial data, governments can focus on hotspots within their regions. Those insights can be coupled with historic and current investment information, helping decision makers identify areas where the right solution has been under-funded and analyze sources to ensure the problem is broadly covered to mirror prior successes.

Socrata puts the data directly in the hands of concerned community organizations. And, with toolsets such as Citizen Connect, governments can prepare the frontlines and use these insights to break the addiction cycle.

To learn more about how Socrata is using open data and collaboration to combat the opioid crisis and arm governments with collaboration and data, head here.

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