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Combating Opioid Overdoses

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Paterson, New Jersey has seen more than 1,700 annual opioid overdoses in recent years, and many residents experiencing opioid-use disorder struggle to access timely support. Like many cities in the United States struggling with an opioid epidemic, Paterson has made the issue a top priority and is working to develop data-informed strategies to provide real-time medical responses and place-based interventions to mitigate the factors that make opioid users more likely to overdose in the first place.

Real-world Solutions

Working side-by-side with the Paterson Police Department, Delivery Associates Digital deployed an automated process/solution that reduced the time it took to generate summary reports from a matter of days to a matter of minutes. After analyzing the content of anonymized police and fire reports, interviewing the police department on their and other stakeholders’ needs, and understanding the frequency of reporting, DA.Digital developed an automated data cleaning, standardization, and reporting process. The Paterson Police Department can now automatically run various summary reports, saving it staff time and resources.

The standardized dataset of overdose instances is shared with a coalition of partners within the city and county that are tackling the opioid crisis in a holistic way: the City Department of Public Safety (which includes Emergency Management Services and the Police Department), the City and County’s Health and Human Services Departments, the County Prosecutor’s Office, the local hospital’s Emergency Department, and the Health Coalition of Passaic County. The cleaned data is also shared with researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who have partnered with the police department to conduct a geographic analysis of frequent locations of overdoses to provide clarity on areas where to direct efforts, as well as to evaluate intervention outcomes.

Repeated overdoses are a critical metric for the city to evaluate. The tool allows the city to understand rates of repeated overdoses, and visualize this information for various different audiences and to inform interventions. In addition, data visualizations are shared with community stakeholders (70+ who are invited to meetings; such actors include local treatment providers, outreach workers, local policy makers, and clergy), as well as administrative, departmental, and elected leaders. These departments are also empowered to perform their own analyses to track and understand the progress of individuals (in an anonymized manner) who repeatedly overdose.


As the senior program manager reflected, “the data automation and cleaning done by the DA.Digital team will be critical for quickly understanding whether our targeted interventions are effective and if the City should begin to see a decrease in overdose calls over time.”

The reports and analyses generated by the tool are discussed during monthly COAR meetings to inform interventions. To date, the city has instituted a series of policy responses as a result of the information these reports and analyses revealed:

1. Preventative Outreach: the city found that 20 percent of all overdoses occur across a mere 2 percent of its area. Based on this information, the city has focused interventions to provide pro-Medically-Assisted-Treatment (MAT) outreach along corridors that have this outsized incidence rate. MAT can not only provide a pathway to more sustainable recovery, but certain types of MAT can eliminate the body’s possibility of overdose on other opiates, including fentanyl.

2. Response policies: the city is changing the language through which people refuse further medical attention following an overdose situation, which will allow the city to perform outreach to them post-incident and still be in compliance with HIPPA regulations.

Solution Features

1-High Speed data automation

The solution operates a script that automatically pulls case reports from the police and fire departments, strips it of all personally identifying information, and cleans the data by identifying inconsistencies in how certain elements of a report are listed (for example, when describing an intersection where an overdose occurred, an officer could write “4th Street” or “4th St.”), and subsequently rewriting such elements in a standardized format. Finally, and most critically, the tool’s script develops summary tables and charts automatically, and these are emailed as PDF documents directly to program staff.

2-Real-time reporting and analytics 

The police department now generates additional reports to support decision-making and understanding of how interventions are working. For example, these reports allow the department and other stakeholders to visualize the rate of individuals who have repeatedly overdosed, the temporal layout (e.g. geography and time) of overdoses, as well as the ratios of overdoses by those who are experiencing homelessness vs. those who are housed, as well as Paterson residents vs. non-residents. Such information is critical to designing data-driven policies and interventions across multiple departments to address the crisis.

The data automation/cleaning done by the DA.Digital will be critical to quickly understand whether we will see a decrease in OD calls over time.

Andrea Ramalho
Senior Program Manager

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