Page 47 - GCN, Feb/Mar 2018
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                                 case study     PUBLIC HEALTH W.Va. county builds
West Virginia’s Harrison County is creating a centralized unit to analyze a wide variety of data in the  ght against opioids
opioid data hub
When Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny attended a community meeting last fall, “I didn’t have credible, confident informa- tion to report on any stats as far as how many overdose deaths \\\[occurred\\\] in a par- ticular period of time, how many arrests \\\[are\\\] associated with opioids or crimes as- sociated with the opioid epidemic.”
That will no longer be the case. A $479,545, two-year grant from the Jus- tice Department’s Bureau of Justice As- sistance and a partnership between Ma- theny’s office and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) will en- able the West Virginia county to create a unit to collect and study data from local health and education departments and other stakeholders, such as hospitals.
The goal is to “obtain the best data that we can” and conduct data-driven analysis on enforcement areas to uncover patterns that predict movements of the drugs, he said. “We could utilize that information to move resources where they need to be.”
Many of the drugs that come into the state originate in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, he said, adding that he hopes to use the system to partner with those jurisdictions to address the issue.
The bulk of the data will come from the computer-aided dispatch system that Harrison County shares with neighbor- ing Taylor County, but the plan is to com-
pare the information against crime, health and education data to create actionable re- ports for law enforcement officials and other organi- zations that are fighting the epidemic.
Matheny plans to hire a
data entry specialist and
data analyst. They will be
employees of the sheriff’s of-
fice, but the analyst will be
embedded at NW3C. He said
a data entry specialist is nec-
essary because not all of the
data will go into the system automatically.
“Somebody’s going to need to extract” the relevant information, Matheny said. “It’s going to take some hands and eyes to look through and decipher this informa- tion before it’s sent on to the analyst to be put into some different programs.”
The idea is to free the analyst to focus solely on analytics, not data collection, said James Foley, vice president of training and curriculum development at NW3C.
Besides decreasing the number of opioid-related deaths, Matheny and Foley hope to build a system that other jurisdictions can replicate.
“Where this is a little bit different than what’s been tried in the the idea of making this an information- sharing hub by taking in information of
all sorts that relate to this problem rath- er than just looking at it as a drug/crime problem,” Foley said. “I think by having a variety of data sources and then being able to put them together and take them apart and see what’s appropriate...we’ll be able to hit at the problem from a number of different areas.”
Securing the Justice Department grant was crucial to helping the county get the project off the ground, Matheny said, adding that “it would have been difficult for the county government to find this type of funding, although it is of extreme importance.”
Furthermore, “having the funding for these two years will potentially, hope- fully, show that this is a workable model,” Foley said. •

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