Helping States Align the Right Resources to Combat the Opioid Crisis

By Charles Castelly, SLED Market Intelligence Analyst

States are increasingly relying on a multi-pronged, data-centric approach to tackle some of the biggest health crises of our time. The Commonwealth of Virginia, like many other state and local governments is grappling with containing both the current pandemic as well as the ongoing opioid crisis, both of which continue to ravage communities according to Carlos Rivero, Virginia’s chief data officer in a recent podcast interview.

Fortunately, in tackling the ongoing opioid crisis, a few best practices and lessons learned have emerged that industry should take note of when pursuing opportunities here. States like Virginia now realize that a fully integrated and coordinated combination of cloud services, enterprise applications and cutting-edge cybersecurity is most effective for tracking and anticipating where resources are needed most.

  1. Cloud Services

There are many benefits to a cloud-based architecture which include mobility, insight across enterprise systems and collaboration. These are important in projects that have multiple stakeholders across separate jurisdictions because they enable stakeholders to seamlessly collaborate in real time, allowing for a greater project impact.

Virginia’s Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT) is a cloud-based tool that has helped uncover key trends and anomalies relating to both the opioid crisis and current pandemic by pooling shared data from cities and counties across the state. This project demonstrates the benefits of cloud-based data tools that can provide visibility and insight on a macro-level and support data-driven decisions — and might well serve as a model for other states.

2. Data Analytics

With data streaming in from a variety of sources across the state, organizing and normalizing data is key to extracting actionable insights. Employing data analytics tools that present the information in a user-friendly manner with dynamic dashboards can aid state and local leadership make informed decisions more rapidly. The difference between effectively managing the opioid crisis and letting the crisis spread out of control is dependent on having the right data and applying the right tools to that produce actionable information so they can properly align the necessary resources. Vendors have an opportunity to aid states and localities in leveraging data from multiple disparate sources with data management and analytic solutions that provide information they can act on.

3. Cybersecurity

Layering on security is obviously necessary especially given the constant threat of ransomware which often targets healthcare institutions. With multiple people inputting and accessing the data along with the integration of the FAACT program with other state systems, end-point vulnerabilities have increased dramatically. If the FAACT program were to be compromised, this could potentially lead to vulnerabilities in other systems that interface with it.

State and localities will need help identifying and mitigating the vulnerabilities of not only the FAACT system but of the network of systems that leverage and interface with it such as hospitals and criminal justice databases – all of which contain sensitive information. Vendors need to provide solutions that not only protect the collaborative database, but the systems where the data originates as well.

Conclusion

For Virginia, the FAACT program has already contributed to the success of jurisdictions with significant challenges. It has enabled the Winchester community to spot a trend in the data that pointed to a rise in overdoses and they were able to quickly respond. To leverage the success like Winchester experienced, states and localities will need the assistance of the vendor community to provide integrated solutions that include cloud services, data analytics and robust cybersecurity that will empower them to make informed decisions to help them mitigate this terrible crisis.

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