As the US Government releases billions of dollars to address the growing problem of opioid addiction, what will reverse this troubling trend?

Opioid addiction is ravaging communities across the United States. Over the past years there has been a sharp increase in deaths, with an estimated 64,000 people overdosing in 2016.

At the state and county level, dedicated, hard-working public health professionals are taking action to prevent overdoses and provide treatment. The spirited response in the face of a deadly epidemic is a scenario we’ve supported many times across the globe.

States across the United States have declared a statewide public health emergency for the opioid epidemic. Pictured above, South Carolina announcing their emergency response in December 2017.

Digital technology can be a powerful tool for people on the front lines implementing opioid response, but only if it fits the community needs. In talking with some of the hardest hit communities we are already seeing opportunities where technology can help:

  1. Improve patient access to care by creating shareable maps with information on lifesaving resources and services.
  2. Help keep patients on the road to recovery by tracking and engaging with them via mobile phones and online communities.
  3. Allocate and manage available opioid response resources and personnel with better data and real-time information.
  4. Provide support groups with mobile tools that help them coordinate and broadcast information to the general population.
  5. Overcome stigma on opioid addiction and treatment via educational campaigns.

While the goal of reducing opioid deaths is nationwide, a one size solution will not fit all for each community. What works in an urban setting may not work in a rural one, for example. We are approaching the crisis as we have other public health emergencies, starting with in-depth assessments followed by inclusive design workshops to develop appropriate solutions.

National Opioid Crisis Community Summit in Maryland

Our open source technologies can quickly build tools like information hotlines, resource maps, and mobile reminder systems. We expect that ideas from opioid crisis responders will result in the development of new innovative tools.

The county public health officials we’ve been talking to are making progress with immense pressure and limited infrastructure. Digital technology has a role to play in helping local leaders grow the impact of their programs to address the opioid crisis.

If you are working in opioid response, we would like to talk with you. Please contact our team member Joe Agoada:

By Simon Green and Joe Agoada

Photo Credits:
1, 2, 3, 4