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High-Tech Mapping Application Helps Find and Treat Drug Overdoses

Maureen Meehan

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High-Tech Mapping Application Helps Find and Treat Drug Overdoses

Big data and big tech are joining forces to find, prevent and treat drug overdoses across the country with a real-time, high-tech mapping application that’s being used by the DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program.

Introducing High-Tech Mapping Application OD Map

The app, which includes a real-time overdose map called the OD Map, was created by California-based Esri, an international supplier of geographic information system software, web GIS (geographic information system) and geo-database applications.

The new app will allow law enforcement and health care providers in multiple jurisdictions across the country to see where overdoses are occurring in real time.

As explained by ZDNet, the app could digitally transform how the country approaches the worsening opioid epidemic. For starters, although the HIDTA has been in existence since 1988, this is the first time it has had access to a real-time map to share with other jurisdictions.

“One of the things that we have had a great deal of difficulty getting from the various agencies is data that’s accurate and timely enough that we can mount some type of response,” said Tom Carr, executive director of HIDTA.

“The OD Map allows us to really forecast where these drug overdose spikes are likely to occur next so we can take proactive action.” Carr said the OD Map is free of charge to all participating agencies.

Why it Matters

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. There are almost as many Americans who die from drug overdoses every year as there were during the entire Vietnam War, which took 58,000 American lives and 3 million people all together.

In 2015, there were 52,404 lethal drug overdoses, the highest level in at least 15 years, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The New York Times reported that drug overdose deaths in 2016 likely exceeded 59,000.

That was the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States. Now, OD Map is the latest innovation working to address these pressing problems.

How it Works

In the past, when overdose information came in, it could arrive weeks or months after the actual overdose occurred. Now, with the OD Map, it’s possible to see exactly where drug activity is the highest. That, in turn, makes it easier for healthcare professionals to administer appropriate and timely care.

The multi-jurisdictional information generated and shared by this high-tech mapping application is invaluable to users, said Jeff Beeson, deputy director of HIDTA.

“The only way we’re going to get to the heart of this overdose [crisis] is to leverage information technology and data sharing, and we need to connect public health and public safety, and that’s the whole point of OD Map,” Beeson said in the tech newsletter GCN.

HIDTA is currently using OD Map in 15 states and more than 50 local jurisdictions, incorporating about 165 public health and public safety agencies.

Prior to this, it operated a pilot phase until May, when it was opened up nationwide. More agencies and jurisdictions are being added weekly.

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