In the latest move to prevent fentanyl and opioid overdoses, the Virginia government is turning to a tech tool.
Earlier this month, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin directed that all government agencies in the state must participate in the Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation, also known as FAACT. This new requirement was part of Executive Order 26.
In the order, Youngkin directed the Departments of Health, Health Professions, Social Services, Medical Assistance Services, Behavioral Health and Development Services, Corrections, Criminal Justice Services and Juvenile Justice to send a plan to report data with FAACT within 120 days. A few of these agencies already submit information to FAACT.
“This effort will create the most cohesive and timely data on fatal and non-fatal overdoses in the Commonwealth to allow for immediate interdiction, education and abatement efforts in the neighborhoods where spikes in overdoses are observed,” the executive order reads.
So, what is FAACT?
FAACT first launched in 2018 in a partnership between software contractor GCOM, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Data Governance and Analytics. The secure data-sharing project combines information from various state agencies, localities, social services, public safety and corrections, drug courts, community coalitions and healthcare systems.
The combined data, GCOM Senior Director of Healthcare Lyd Paull-Flores said, help show community leaders, first responders and other constituents a better, more complete picture of overdose data. This, she noted, can support more timely and effective responses and prevent overdoses. Most of the data is also on a map and accessed in a live dashboard, as opposed to grids or pie charts, for a more comprehensive view.
“You can look at [data] in an integrated system, so it’s not just the criminal justice data and not just the mental health data and not just the EMS data, because it’s all going to different places and taking care of different people,” Paull-Flores told Technical.ly.
You might remember FAACT from the early days of the pandemic. Although it was built in response to the state’s opioid epidemic, the tool was expanded to track and help limit the spread of COVID-19. But FAACT pulls from several datasets to get the job done. In addition to Department of Justice data, it also pulls from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which the CDC manages. It also tracks EMS and Department of Health data, which are updated pretty regularly, and more sources.
This layering of datasets, Paull-Flores said, also incorporates both current and historical data to show trends and patterns in overdoses to create a more comprehensive view.
“You have the historical stuff and then on top of it you start overlaying real-time arrest data and then you can start to see, are we matching trends or not?” Paull-Flores said.
So far, FAACT has led a few local communities to be really data-driven, Paull-Flores said, which can help with applying to federal grants and getting funding for the locality. It can also help effect small changes with big impacts: She described one community where FAACT showed that the only place to access Narcan — a medication to prevent overdoses — was at a local prison and community members were not taking advantage. As a result, advocates were able to get a Narcan vending machine installed in the community.
Paull-Flores also believes FAACT offers some lessons that communities outside of Virginia could benefit from. But she also sees plenty of work to do in the state, like adding predictive analytics for better recommendations and services. She’d also like more insight into mobile services so that they can be more responsive on spikes.
“Prevention of overdoses requires education,” Paull-Flores said. “You have to have a real understanding of what is going to cause an overdose, how can you prevent it and delay the age of first use.”
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