The New Jersey Department of Health issued a request for applications from local health departments to launch studies of overdoses in individual communities, used to better inform preventive and recovery initiatives.
Awards of $100,000 will be provided to establish the Overdose Fatality Review Teams (OFRTs). New Jersey reported 3,000 citizens were lost to an overdose in 2019, representing about eight lives a day.
“The department recognizes the importance of local solutions to bring about a larger change that is needed to address the overdose crisis,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “The power of Overdose Fatality Review Teams is that they combine robust data with local partnerships, which is the perfect public health recipe for success. These teams will bring about innovation to help end the overdose epidemic.”
OFRTs to Investigate Trends, Data
The grants will enable local health departments to develop their own OFRTs to better analyze data and trends in counties and regions in the hope of developing more effective mitigation programs.
OFRTs will be expected to conduct multi-agency/multi-disciplinary reviews of information related to an overdose fatality, and establish policies to pool available information. Additionally, it will look for risk factors that increase the risk of overdoses, and find ways to improve partnerships across different branches of government.
Funding will be available for initial OFRTs at eight local health departments, with $100,000 available each. Additionally, funding will be available for two established OFRTs to further study the issue.
Rising Need Amid the Pandemic
Overdoses are up about 20% in New Jersey, with 1,339 suspected overdose deaths reported. Many believe additional stress connected to the coronavirus pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and economic instability are contributing to the rise.
Additionally, some fear the use of opioids alone with no one to take an overdosing individual to a hospital may be contributing to the rise.
“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the department is concerned that the overdose epidemic will not only persist but will worsen. Social isolation, grief and job loss are just some of the factors that could contribute to a possible increase in deaths,” said Persichilli. “The Department of Health continues to be vigilant in monitoring overdose data and promoting access to treatment and care.”