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A powerful tool to pinpoint and prevent prescription drug abuse.

Opioid Abuse: An Escalating Problem

In 2014, nearly 19,000 people died from prescription opioid-related causes--a 16 percent increase from 2013. (1) Killing more people than automobile accidents, approximately 78 Americans are fatally overdosing on opioids each and every day, according to the CDC.

One of the most devastating aspects of opioids is their ability to cut across all socioeconomic classes and demographics. "This is not a problem that is only impacting people who have gone astray and break the law," says Dr. Este Geraghty, chief medical officer and health solutions director at Esri. "This is a problem that affects a lot of people and it could be your neighbor, your mother--people you might not have initially expected."

Across the country, state and local government leaders are grappling with how to get ahead of the problem, Including limiting painkiller prescriptions and launching prescription drug monitoring programs. In July, President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA), which increases the availability of naloxone, strengthens Monitoring and expands educational efforts.

But funding is an issue. While Obama had asked Congress for $1 billion for CARA, the Act included a fraction of that at $181 million. Advocates say funding to address prevention and early treatment of opioid abuse is critical.

"We know that public health is traditionally under-funded and resources are always limited," says Geraghty. "And so you need to use resources in the best way possible. You need to get to smaller, neighborhood-level analysis so you are targeting your interventions where they are needed the most."

Raising Awareness and Targeting Resources

Geraghty points to the power of mapping to help leaders make strategic decisions regarding plans for prevention and Intervention. Perhaps most importantly, visualization tools allow governments to raise awareness and make the epidemic real to their communities.

"Simple resource maps can be just the start in helping others understand addiction and find help," says Jeremiah Lindemann, a solution engineer at Esrl who lost his brother, J.T., to a prescription drug overdose and who has since become an activist for increasing awareness and using maps to help solve the problem.

"Visualizing trends provides a deeper understanding of the factors that may contribute to opioid use in a given area and the resources available to prevent and treat addiction," says Lindemann.

Sometimes, simply putting a face to the problem makes the biggest impact in rallying a community to battle prescription drug abuse.

(1.) http://www.forbes.com/sites/cjarlotta/2016/07/23/obama-signs-opioid-legislation-despite-funding- concerns/#577fe58134e6

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Title Annotation:SPONSORED CONTENT
Publication:Policy & Practice
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2016
Words:417
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