Pa. launches opioid database sharing network

Gov. Tom Wolf, state police and public health officials on Monday unveiled the Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network

Erie Times-News

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Experts have long recommended the collection of data to throw the outlines of the opioid epidemic into high relief. Jurisdictional lines—between law enforcement agencies, medical and treatment facilities, and public health officials—can erect damaging barriers to the "big-picture" view needed to attack the problem. A sweeping, comprehensive view of where overdoses occur and what drugs or dealers might be in play could help both law enforcement and medical and treatment professionals detect patterns and trends and hone their strategies.

Pennsylvania is now in a position to do just that with what is believed to be the first network in the nation to allow all criminal justice agencies and public health officials to together track the state's overdoses and related information across jurisdictional lines and in near real time.

Gov. Tom Wolf, state police and public health officials on Monday unveiled the Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network (ODIN). The state's drug overdoses, which numbered more than 5,200 in 2017, will no longer be isolated events but plotted statewide as they happen.

The database will show health professionals and law enforcement the location of overdoses and also incidents in which first responders administered naloxone, an opioid reversal drug. That way, overdose clusters can be detected quickly and experts can assess whether there are adequate resources to address them.

County 911 dispatchers, police, and fire and emergency medical first responders will be able to record when and where they administer naloxone and certain characteristics of the patients. Importantly, other restricted areas of the database—open only to law enforcement—will permit officers to share information about drug investigations, such as drug seizures, with agencies in other jurisdictions.

"This technology allows law enforcement to streamline real-time data sharing so actionable information does not slip through the cracks," Wolf said.

While ODIN will not be open for public view, Wolf's administration has also launched the Pennsylvania Opioid Data Dashboard. With a few clicks, residents can see key statistics in their home counties. In Erie County, for example, the dashboard shows that in 2016, 47 newborns on Medicaid were born suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms.

These welcome new tools come barely two months after Wolf declared a state of emergency over the opioid epidemic. The databases will act in concert with other smartly targeted measures previously enacted by Wolf and the Legislature, including the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which helps doctors get a clear picture of patients' prescription drug history.

To fight an enemy you must be able to see it. The ODIN network, as long as it is fed the proper information and maintained, should give the state a new advantage in this war.

Copyright 2018 Erie Times-News

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