2019 Government Innovation Awards
Understanding the patterns of opioid abuse
When Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam chose Carlos Rivero to be the state’s first chief data officer last year, Rivero’s first order of business was to develop a way for state agencies to share and analyze information associated with the abuse of opioids and other controlled substances. The result is the Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT).
Previously, data was housed within the agencies that collected it, and although the Department of Criminal Justice Services had information-sharing agreements with those agencies, crucial data often arrived months after incidents occurred, said Thomas Fitzpatrick, the department’s division director for programs and services. Officials could see trends but couldn’t compare datasets across agencies.
FAACT anonymizes individuals’ information so that agencies can share data while protecting privacy, Fitzpatrick said. In addition, a self-service analytics layer lets state and local organizations create reports and dashboards and study incident maps to quickly identify populations that need immediate help.
For example, during a pilot test of FAACT in Winchester, data revealed a spike in overdoses. In response, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition issued a press release alerting individuals and health and substance abuse providers about the potential for overdoses, and the number dropped the next week.
Fitzpatrick said employees don’t need to be data or technology experts to use FAACT. They just need approval and training to access the platform.
Officials are deploying FAACT in Roanoke and plan to implement it elsewhere, but strong partnerships at the local level — like the one in Winchester — are essential to optimize its effectiveness, Fitzpatrick said. “They had the human connections already, and they were able to use the technology to enhance that work,” he added.
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