Chris Delcher, Ph.D., has received a 3-year, $600,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance in Washington, D.C., to map the opioid prescribing practices of Florida physicians in collaboration with the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) with the goal of helping predict which Florida communities may be potentially at risk of the negative consequence of opioid use.
“Prediction is prevention,” Delcher said of the program, “Better Intelligence Gathering for Public Safety and Public Health,” or BigPUSH. Delcher is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy (HOP) whose research focuses on evaluating PDMPs and their role in reducing prescription drug abuse. The BigPUSH program uses data in the state’s PDMP to map “hot spots” in the state with the highest rates of opioid prescriptions. The maps would enable local, regional and state agencies and other stakeholders to target resources in these areas to prevent opioid-related problems, such as addiction and overdose.
“Our main goal is to bring our expertise in data systems and population health to increase opportunities to impact one of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” Delcher said.
Delcher said hot spot mapping is a tool that he and other HOP researchers have already used to map premature births in all 67 Florida counties. Preterm births are a major contributor of developmental delays, disability and infant death. The maps identify areas of greatest need, which help inform government agencies and other stakeholders on where to focus resources to improve outcomes.
Delcher and his team hope that the BigPUSH program will increase collaboration and strategic decision-making of regulatory and law enforcement agencies and public health officials to address prescription drug and opioid misuse.
“The best way to address the opioid epidemic is to take a public health approach that focuses on opioid use disorder as a chronic disease that can be treated and prevented,” Delcher said. “At the same time, we need to strengthen law enforcement efforts to address illegal supply-chain activity.”
“Our ultimate goal is to save lives and reduce crime in Florida,” he said.