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A new dashboard is empowering Ohio counties to curb overdoses

A close-up photo of a classic orange prescription bottle with a number of white pills in it.
Dan Konik
The Statehouse News Bureau
The data dashboard will give counties more specific information on opioid use disorder in their communities.

Ohio counties now have better access to data around opioid misuse.

Governor Mike DeWine announced last week the launch of a statewide dashboard to better track overdose deaths and other related substance use statistics.

The dashboard will bring together data from various state agencies that were previously difficult to access – from the number of people using medication to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) to the number of units of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone distributed within a community.

All of which aims to help local agencies improve their intervention strategies.

“Agencies can use these data to identify specific community needs regarding service provision, or they can be used to show funding agencies the need for additional monies to serve those who use opioids in their community,” said Bridget Frieschler, who leads the research program.

Filling the gaps

The dashboard is an expansion of the National Institute of Health’s HEALing Communities Study – which has been working to improve access to addiction research for 18 Ohio counties.

Ross County, in south central Ohio, is one of the communities that began using the data to inform its treatment strategies last year.

“Being able to drill down into a community and compare like communities, that's going to be where the major impact is."
John Gabis, founder of the Hope Partnership Project

Nikki Priest coordinates the Hope Partnership Project, an organization devoted to treating and preventing Substance Use Disorder in the county. She said the data has helped them understand the gaps of care throughout the community.

“One of the really interesting pieces of information that they shared with us is some mapping of where the most overdose deaths are occurring in relation to their distance from treatment options,” she said. “That really helped us target where we wanted to focus increasing access.”

A spike in overdose deaths

2020 marked one of Ohio’s highest years in drug overdose deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health. More than 5,000 people died that year alone.

Priest said that the subsequent years haven’t seen much improvement.

“Overdose deaths are still happening,” Priest said. “Across the state, they're seeing that the drugs are continuing to evolve and become more dangerous.”

The State Behavioral Health Dashboard shows overdose deaths from 2017 to 2021. 2020 and 2021 both surpassed 5,000.
Data Ohio
Overdose deaths surged with the pandemic. The state dashboard visualizes statewide and county by county data in relation to substance use.

Fentanyl has accelerated overdose deaths across the state and the nation, according to John Gabis, the founder of Hope Partnership Project and medical director of community partnerships.

The synthetic drug was involved in 81% of 2020 overdose deaths in the state.

Finding what works

Although substance use disorder hits every community, Gabis said the data set will give the opportunity to cater treatment to specific populations.

Resources to treatment are going to look different in Ross County than in Pike County, he said.

“Being able to drill down into a community and compare like communities, that's going to be where the major impact is,” he said.

Gabis said the data will also help communities to evaluate what’s working. After about a year of working with the dashboards, his organization plans on using the data to see how effective their programming has been.

“We don't want to do what we just think is going to work. We don't want to do what feels good to do,” he said. “We want to do programming and activities and interventions that make a difference.”

Kendall Crawford is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently worked as a reporter at Iowa Public Radio.