With drug overdose deaths increasing both nationally and in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced today that it has launched a new Rhode Island Drug Overdose Surveillance Data Hub to increase access to information about the overdose epidemic.

The Rhode Island Drug Overdose Data Hub was formally released this week during a meeting of Governor Dan McKee’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The hub can be accessed at: Health.ri.gov/od-datahub.

The hub has expanded public access to five overdose surveillance systems, and offers a closer look at detailed, municipal, county, and statewide trends. Featured surveillance systems include emergency department visits, emergency medical service runs, overdose fatalities from the RIDOH’s Office of the State Medical Examiners and the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System, and prescribing data for the Rhode Island Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Community partners, researchers, students, and others can compare municipal-level data, such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, and incident/resident location, to county and statewide trends. People can also find municipal data reports, research publications, and request or download data.

“As the drug overdose epidemic evolves, this new tool empowers Rhode Island’s Health Equity Zones (HEZ), Community Overdose Engagement (CODE) partners, and other community partners to use municipal drug overdose data to prevent overdose deaths and save lives,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of RIDOH and co-chair of Governor McKee’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force in a statement.  “Community partnership are more important now than ever.”

“Rhode Island has long been a national leader in making drug overdose data accessible and available to the public. This new data hub provides an even more comprehensive resource and will be a critically important tool for harm reduction organizations, policy makers, researchers, and municipalities across the state,” said Dr. Brandon Marshall, Development Team Lead for PreventOverdoseRI.org and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Brown University School of Public Health in a statement.

The Rhode Island Drug Overdose Data Hub works together with PreventOverdoseRI.org to create a holistic view of how opioids and drug overdose are impacting the state. PreventOverdoseRI.org offers historical overdose data trends, interactive data stories, local resources, educational materials, and campaigns. The dashboard also provides resources for people who may be at risk of overdose, healthcare providers who would like to learn more about treatment, as well as concerned loved ones. Since 2015, PreventOverdoseRI.org has been an online platform for real-time data to track the progress of the Governor’s Overdose Prevention Action Plan.

RIDOH’s new Data Hub links directly to PreventOverdoseRI.org to ensure data visualizations on both sites are updated automatically. Improvements in the data request process have been enhanced on the website, making it easier for the public to request data directly from RIDOH’s Drug Overdose Surveillance Program.

“Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. By providing accessible data and public resources, RIDOH is putting vital tools into the hands of outreach workers and community members to do life-saving work. We are grateful for the Department of Health’s commitment to supporting overdose prevention and harm reduction efforts, including the Overdose Data Hub and PORI,” said Annajane Yolken, Director of Programs at Project Weber/RENEW in a statement. 

Increasing public access to timely, accurate data has been a focus of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) 2020 Evidence Update for the Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

Accidental drug overdose deaths increased by 25% from 2019 to 2020 (from 308 to 384). Preliminary 2021 fatal overdose data suggest that Rhode Island remains on a similar trajectory.

Rhode Islanders experiencing a substance use or mental health crisis can get connected to immediate care by calling the 24/7 BH Link Hotline, 401-414-LINK (5465)or visiting BH Link Walk-In Triage Center at 975 Waterman Avenue in East Providence.

The Data Hub adheres to RIDOH’s Small Numbers Reporting Policy to ensure confidentiality. A tutorial about the Rhode Island Drug Overdose Data Hub is available online: https://youtu.be/BPl7yk9mu58

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).