With about 150,000 residents, Paterson comprises 29% of Passaic County’s population, but accounts for 55% of heroin and opioid treatment admissions countywide.
The Opioid Response Team (ORT) outreach program targets a roughly square-mile overdose hotspot area in downtown Paterson.
The What Works Cities team helped operationalize ORT goals and metrics by developing a digital tool to automate, clean, visualize, and analyze the data.
The number of overdose events in ORT’s target area fell in 2021 compared to prior years, even as total overdoses across Paterson increased from 2019 to 2021.
To settle on ORT’s target area and outreach strategy, COAR and Dr. Piza’s teams needed to answer an important question: Where and when were opioid overdoses — especially multiple overdose events involving the same individual — happening in Paterson?
The leadership of a dedicated Opioid Data Manager in working with a research institution proved critical to making change. The John Jay team helped Paterson set goals, metrics and targets, and TA partners from the What Works Cities team helped operationalize those goals and metrics by developing a digital tool to automate, clean, visualize, and analyze the data. The picture that emerged, supported by custom GIS-driven visualization tools, highlighted three important aspects of Paterson’s opioid crisis.
- About 22% of the thousands of overdose events over a two-year period occurred on just 2% of the city’s downtown street segments.
- Thirty percent of overdose victims Paterson police officers and EMTs responded to in that period were repeat overdosers.
- In the small downtown area where many overdose events were concentrated, about 20% of overdose victims responders encountered in the period analyzed refused transportation to the hospital, where they could receive treatment services.
Data visualization tools plotting overdose location, time of day, and day of week helped COAR and Dr. Piza’s team design ORT’s strategy and define success metrics. City leaders and other COAR stakeholders set a handful of specific performance goals for the effort by the end of 2022. They involve increasing the percentage of overdose victims in the target area that receive opioid abuse treatment services and reducing the number of victims in the area that refuse hospitalization. There’s a citywide goal as well: reduce the percentage of repeat overdose events by about one-third.