Cooperation in opioid fight noteworthy

How often do we hear accusations and evidence that when it comes to government, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing?

But last week we saw an example of a cooperative effort in a matter of life or death — tracking overdose records in an effort to research and combat the Trumbull County opioid crisis.

A partnership developing between the Trumbull County 911 Center and the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board will help guarantee that opioid overdose numbers being reported are accurate, even when the patient refuses to be transported to area hospitals or to receive further medical treatment.

Initiated by Trumbull County 911 Director Ernie Cook in response to concerns outlined by April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, of incomplete data, the plan is an example of cooperation among local government at its finest.

The effort began after Caraway said that despite hopefulness, she had concerns that statistics indicating opioid overdoses were on the decline might not be accurate. In March, for instance, there were 22 reported opioid drug overdoses in Trumbull County, compared to 189 last March.

Specifically, Caraway expressed frustration at the lack of access to data that would allow tracking of non-fatal overdoses in Trumbull County. Records of medical response are particularly difficult to access locally because so many of the townships and municipalities are served by private ambulance services rather than public services that could make the call data more accessible. While HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, ensures patient privacy, statistical data could still be accessible. However, the large number of private ambulance companies that serve Trumbull County make creating a uniform reporting system and collection a significant struggle.

Cook became aware of the problem and offered to help. He said his department can create a code for all overdose calls that his dispatchers can record, allowing them to run a report as frequently as Caraway requests it. He said his agency also would be willing to coordinate the same system with other dispatch systems in Trumbull County.

Caraway called the offer and the idea “excellent.”

We agree. Access to this data makes researching drug overdoses more possible. It could allow experts and responders to analyze patterns and be more knowledgeable and ready to react.

This cooperative effort and willingness to “think outside the box” in finding ways to work through challenges and obstacles is outstanding. More government entities should take note and understand the value of working together for the good of the residents.