A new interactive tool to address the opioid epidemic has been launched by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for people to see how the crisis is impacting their own communities.
What’s happening globally, nationally, and even at the state level may not inspire the help specific communities need. For that, Michael Meit Co-Director NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis says you have to focus on how the crisis is affecting specific areas.
“You’ll find local rates for overdose mortality so that people can learn what the issue looks like in their community as well as some of the factors that may be associated with higher rates in their community.”
The opioid misuse Community Assessment Tool gives you a glimpse into your own neighborhood and the greater region.
“Looking at California for example, you’ll note that the highest rates in California are in the northeastern part of the state,” explained Meit.
“You can also see whether your county has rates that are higher than we see nationally or higher than state rates. A lot of information about other factors, demographic factors, socioeconomic factors that may be associated with the rates that you see in your county. You can also create overlays so that you can visually see how those different factors may be associated throughout your state,” added Meit.
One size doesn’t fit all. Certainly, what strategies are used to address the crisis in one community may not work for another. Solutions are going to vary across the country in terms of what's acceptable in a community.
"Some communities are looking at harm reduction programs, needle exchange type programs. That's not going to be a solution that's going to fit every place. Some places are looking at medication assisted therapy. Really doubling down on making sure that recovery is something that's accessible to people. That treatment centers are accessible."
The local data Meit says can be an indication where we need to target resources and where communities need to come together for locally driven solutions and help communities build grassroots strategies to address the opioid epidemic.
"All of us need to get together with our local policy makers, our health department officials, our social service agencies and our recovery organizations. We need to come together to figure out what is driving this in our communities and what are those local solutions to try to get ahead of this."