CINCINNATI – As the region’s heroin epidemic escalates, community leaders are racing to answer questions they say are critical to curbing the crisis.
Where are overdoses occurring the most? When? How often?
In Cincinnati – where nearly 1,400 heroin overdoses have occurred so far this year -- these details and more will soon be available to researchers and the public almost as quickly as they occur.
It’s part of a citywide effort to use big data as the latest tool to battle the heroin scourge.
“The idea is to do whatever we can, from a data perspective, to provide information and insight to everyone who is on the front lines of the epidemic,” Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said. “In front of the right people, this data will help us identify trends and solutions that are critical to figuring this thing out.”
Using information collected during ambulance runs, Cincinnati’s office of Performance and Data Analytics has created a database detailing every overdose that emergency crews have responded to in the city since last July.
The database – overlaid on a citywide map -- covers not just the location of an overdose, but also the time of day, day of the week and month. It also offers details on whether the individual was taken to an area hospital – something that’s happening only about half of the time, according to the data.
“The idea is to populate this map with as many data sets as possible so we can get the fullest view possible of the problem,” Black said.
Findings: ‘Hot spots’ detected, more emergency workers needed
Already, Cincinnati’s police and emergency response workers have been using the data to detect “hot spots” where there have been spikes in overdoses, said Anson Turley, Cincinnati’s assistant fire chief who manages the city’s emergency medical teams.
“The challenge is locating resources where the need is greatest while still providing coverage to the entire city,” Turley said.
While no Cincinnati neighborhood has been left unscathed by the crisis, the data show that 10 neighborhoods account for more than half of all the city's emergency medical runs to overdose scenes.
Top 10 Neighborhoods with most heroin overdoses
WEST PRICE HILL 143
EAST PRICE HILL 93
CAMP WASHINGTON 55
SOUTH FAIRMOUNT 54
WALNUT HILLS 43
With spikes in overdoses peaking at more than 400 in September alone, Turley said the data underscore the need for increased medical transport units.
"The current heroin crisis has created a spike in this demand,” he said. “The data analyzed… shows that the fire department must increase capacity.”
Public heroin overdose dashboard coming soon
Within the next month, some of the data being collected will become part of an online digital dashboard of heroin overdoses across the city that will be updated regularly, said Leigh Tami, director of the Office of Performance and Data Analytics.
As her office continues to collect and build out the database, the heroin dashboard will eventually be combined with other “quality of life indicators,” including crime, reports of blight and other requests for service, Tami said.
“We’re here to make sure everyone has the information and that it’s accessible in a way that’s easy to drill down very quickly to see what the trends are,” Tami said.