ANN ARBOR –  Great Lakes Health Connect is collaborating with the University of Michigan Acute Care Research Unit in expanding its real-time System for Opioid Overdose Surveillance.

The pilot project began in Washtenaw County for its first year, and is now expanding to up to five more. Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how to reduce opioid-related abuse, overdose and death.

The project was conceived, and is funded, by a partnership between the UM Injury Prevention Center and a coalition of local, state, and Federal law enforcement known as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. The project takes a system-based approach to the opioid overdose problem by gathering clinical data from multiple sources and aims to increase the timeliness and quality of reporting so that regional response strategies can be developed to reduce opioid abuse, overdose, and death.  

“One of the biggest challenges we are addressing [with the S.O.S. project] is understanding the scale of the problem”, said Dr. Mahshid Abir, Director of the UM Acute Care Research Unit and Principal Investigator for the S.O.S. project. “We can’t assume that patterns of abuse are static”, she continued, “what makes the S.O.S. project unique, is the collaborative contributions of stakeholders from across the community”.

Great Lakes Health Connect sorts Admissions, Discharge, and Transfer data from all involved hospital emergency departments for the opioid related diagnosis codes. The S.O.S. project combines it with the data culled from other sources. The existing relationships that GLHC has with hospitals and systems, as well as their technical infrastructure and expertise, makes them uniquely positioned to assist in this project.

“Great Lakes Health Connect is privileged to work with Dr. Abir, and her team at the University of Michigan”, said Doug Dietzman, Executive Director at GLHC. “As a community resource, GLHC is always seeking out opportunities to demonstrate new applications for our solutions and services”, he continued.  “Being part of the S.O.S. project is a meaningful expression of our mission”, he concluded. 

Dr. Abir describes opioid addiction as “a disease of despair”. “It does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status, it’s an equal opportunity destroyer”, she says. The S.O.S. project presents a means of understanding the crisis and informing the response.

Based in Grand Rapids, GLHC facilitates the transmission of more than a billion messages annually between 129 hospitals and more than 4,000 primary, specialty, and allied care provider offices across the state. 

The U-M Acute Care Research Unit includes but is not limited to members from the fields of nursing, social work, public health, public policy, law, family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, critical care, general surgery, and psychiatry.