Homelessness and Opioids: A Roadmap for Sharing Data to Enable More Effective Collaboration

As we all know, both homelessness and the opioid epidemic present serious societal challenges, with treatment and prevention remaining quite elusive for both. And, where the intersection of homelessness and opioid addiction exists, the challenges are exacerbated.

While there is significant analysis occurring on the opioid epidemic in terms of eliminating the over-prescription of addictive opioids and understanding the progression to illegal substances such as heroin, little research has been done on the potential causal relationship of homelessness and opioids.

For example, the research on homelessness indicates opioid overdoses is very high among this population, and in the same vein, homelessness is recognized as a challenge for treating those with opioid addiction. While broad national research indicates that there is a definite intersection between these two societal crises, it falls short of identifying the primary driver for this combination.

This lack of clarity creates a challenge for how social services departments harness information to either prevent or improve service delivery to this population.

The Human Services Information Technology Advisory Group (HSITAG) community, developed a white paper entitled Homelessness and Opioids: A Roadmap for Sharing Data to Enable More Effective Collaboration. The focus of this paper examines how access to better information and harvesting data that already exists in multiple systems may help inform and evolve service delivery.

While significant data may exist individually within Medicaid, Medicare, social services, criminal justice, public health and, education databases, the greater potential exists for communities to more effectively address homelessness among the addicted with a more informed, comprehensive view provided by data sharing. Within the context of problem definition, current policies and funding, this paper looks at the operational problems we must address to enable data sharing to effect improved outcomes. Specifically, the paper examines the following topics: 

·       What data needs to be shared? 

·       Who needs access to this data?

·       What are the constraints for data sharing?

·       How to break down barriers to data sharing?

·       Why there needs to be a focus on interoperability?

Sharing data and then analyzing the aggregated information available across the spectrum of involved agencies offers an opportunity to increase the level of insights needed for tackling the drivers for homelessness and opioid abuse, and to improve the detection of the relationship between them. Moreover, this added insight could lead to identifying additional solutions or funding that might be leveraged or redirected to more effective, long-lasting outcomes for treatment and stabilization, as well as early prevention and intervention

Adopting strong collaborations across the entire ecosystem and addressing support and solutions for homelessness and opioid abuse, particularly those interested in the intersection of homelessness and opioid abuse will offer ready partners for data sharing. Making data sharing a systemic part of the support and solution ecosystem offers opportunities to cascade the benefits of data sharing beyond targeted initiatives and pilots. With a systemic adoption of data sharing as a recognized essential element for solving these crises, current constraints and barriers can more easily be identified and addressed with common purpose.

The complete report, “Homelessness and Opioids: A Roadmap for Sharing Data to Enable More Effective Collaboration,” is available here.




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