Over 70,000 overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017. Public data indicate that Texas does not have a significant opioid problem relative to the rest of the nation; however, qualitative data with healthcare providers, first responders, and harm reduction organizations indicate that Texas does have a more significant opioid problem than the data represents. Several reasons may contribute to underreporting including misdiagnosing cause of deaths (e.g., “respiratory failure” vs “opioid overdose”); stigma (many overdoses are unreported to EMS, law enforcement, or healthcare providers); and multiple, disjointed reporting systems. Since there is a lack of accurate, consistent, and timely statewide data available on overdoses and other related variables (e.g., Narcan administration), it is essential to design a tool to track drug overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, by location, as they happen.

Project Connect aims to improve overdose reporting and prevention efforts through an innovative community-academic-industry partnership. This study uses community-engaged research methods to understand gaps in overdose reporting and prevention response in Texas. The community is at the center of this work. We have established community advisory boards across four counties: Bexar, El Paso, Travis, and Williamson. Preliminary research data will inform development of a digital platform uniquely tailored to harm reduction organizations, first responders, healthcare providers, and the community of people who use drugs. We will pilot the platform across our four counties prior to launching statewide. A robust tracking system has the potential to inform preventative methods and optimize expenditure of State funds through informed, data-driven decisions.

This project is supported by the Texas Targeted Opioid Response, a public health initiative operated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission through federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant award number 1H79TI083288.