Arkansas group to start opioid-deaths state database

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas nonprofit plans to develop an online database of opioid-related overdoses in the state.

The Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care is creating the database that would provide policymakers more accurate and updated information that they can use when applying for grants and deciding where to focus prevention efforts, Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane said Wednesday.

“Right now we’re pouring 2019 resources, dollars and manpower into 2016 and 2017 statistics, and that doesn’t work,” Lane said.

The database will use information from death certificates, hospitals, coroners and other sources to compile information about fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses. It’s expected to be ready for public use within six months. The Department of Justice awarded the state a nearly $1 million grant to fund the project, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Gina Redford, data analytics manager at Little Rock-based Foundation for Medical Care, said the database website will only feature information on overdoses that involve opioids because the federal grant targets that class of drug.

Opioids include prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and fentanyl, in addition to heroin.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Wednesday shows Arkansas had at least 433 fatal drug overdoses in 2018. But that number is likely to swell as death certificates are updated to reflect the results of completed investigations, the CDC said.

Lane and other Arkansas officials said the state likely has more fatal opioid-related overdoses than the death certificates indicate because the state’s 75 elected coroners vary in their practices for investigating deaths. The new database will supplement death certificate information with data from an online reporting system used by 28 coroners.

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