By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Giselle Hood
TUSCALOOSA – The University of Alabama was recently chosen to help lead the fight against opioid addiction through the Southeast Regional Drug Data Center and Institute of Data and Analytics. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance is providing $3.5 million in funding for researchers to compile and analyze data from Alabama, as well as seven other nearby states.
“Unfortunately, Alabama has been number one in opioid prescriptions per capita since 2012, which is not something we’re happy to lead the nation in,” IDA Deputy Director Dr. Matthew Hudnall explained. “Traditionally, a state has just had the view of what’s going on in their own state. But this new center that we now have funding for will pull together the data for all the surrounding states.”
In order to get a complete picture of the state’s opioid drug abuse problem, researchers at the center will be using a number of different sources and working with members of the community to compile accurate data.
“It takes a lot of legal agreements and partnerships between these different states,” Hudnall said. “A lot of student-lead involvement to be able to work with the different data sources and bringing together faculty from a lot of departments to do these analyses and connecting the different data sources together.”
Alabama had 396 deaths from opioid overdose in 2019 alone. After years of working to stop opioid abuse with little success, IDA Assistant Director Dr. Dwight Lewis explained researchers are hoping a central data repository will be a step in the right direction.
“As far as the progress we’ve made, you can kind of say it’s always been two steps forward, two steps back,” Lewis said. “So hopefully we’ll be able to have different approaches using data and analytics to make the progress we want to make as a nation.”