As part of efforts to leverage data to prevent overdoses and save lives, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is activating an enhanced system to track non-fatal overdoses throughout the state daily, and to get alerts out into the community in real time.
Before this system enhancement, RIDOH would send out any community overdose alerts on a weekly basis after analyzing data from two datasets: overdose-related emergency department visits in Rhode Island, and?overdose-related Emergency Medical Services (EMS) runs in Rhode Island. With the enhanced system in place, alerts can now go out daily to first responders and other healthcare professionals, harm reduction organizations, local leaders, and residents in impacted areas. RIDOH will also have the ability to monitor daily opioid overdose trends statewide, regional hot spots, and the utilization of emergency medical care.
"The faster we can get overdose data to our community partners, the more effective their overdose prevention strategies will be," said Interim Director of Health Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH. "Using data to inform action is a key strategy in our work to prevent overdoses and save lives in Rhode Island."
While data on fatal overdoses is central to Rhode Island's overall overdose prevention strategy, it can take several weeks or months to confirm fatal overdoses (because of the complex toxicology testing often needed). By tracking suspected non-fatal overdoses (through data on emergency department visits and EMS runs), RIDOH can get life-saving information into the community almost right away.
Rhode Island is divided into 11 overdose regions, based on past overdose trends. Each region has its own overdose threshold, based on the previous year of overdose data. Overdose Spike Alerts are sent based on exceedances of these thresholds. (These were previously called Rhode Island Overdose Action Area Response Public Health Alerts, or ROAARs.)
In addition to daily monitoring of overdose activity, RIDOH has implemented a three-tiered approach to address increases in local overdose activity. This plan, called the Levels of Response, deploys public health strategies based on the overdose activity occurring in a particular region. These levels range from an initial overdose spike, a sustained overdose spike, or a sustained high rate of burden in that region.
If a region has a sustained overdose spike or a sustained high rate of overdose burden, RIDOH will respond with additional targeted notification to the area, including involving community partners for increased outreach and convening an emergency community meeting. The burden rate can also help inform funding priorities and/or program implementation.
To view these data, visit RIDOH's Drug Overdose Surveillance Data Hub at health.ri.gov/od-data. To learn more about local drug overdose prevention resources, visit PreventOverdoseRI.org.