Manchester Hopes Rapid Response Teams Will Help Curb Drug Overdoses

First responders and community leaders in Manchester, New Hampshire, are taking a data-driven approach to preventing people from overdosing on opioids

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The city of Manchester, New Hampshire, is expanding on a new approach to tackling the opioid crisis.

Officials are working to deploy rapid response teams to areas deemed "hot spots." Community leaders met Wednesday with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of County and City Health Officials to work out the details for best practices moving forward.

The teams will be made up of representatives of several different city and community agencies and groups to offer a wide range of immediate and long-term outreach options. One important aspect of this program is the use of real-time data being collected through first responders.

"We track overdose trends day to day, so if there's a true spike that happens, we'll see that in the dashboard," said Manchester Police Lt. Mathew Barter.

Barter says Manchester officers have documented overdose calls since 2014. Now, this data is a crucial part in the rapid response teams' operations.

That data is being compiled into a dashboard that breaks overdoses down by time, day and location. The data then lets the response teams know if there appears to be an uptick or change.

The teams will be expanding on work being done right now by Director of Overdose Prevention Andrew Warner.

"We've never had that access to the data piece. So what is really exciting about this program is as it's happening live-time, I'm seeing a map of hot spots where people are overdosing," Warner said. "We're contacting those folks. We're also using that information to get ahead of the spike versus in retrospect, saying, 'OK, a bunch of people died.'"

Last year, an estimated 701 overdoses were reported in the city. During a recent spike in February, Manchester reported seven suspected overdose fatalities in just 48 hours.

Barter says in that case, police were able to work with the data.

"After that, we did see a decline in overdoses," he said. "Do we know if the communication was part of that? We don't know, but we're hopeful that it is."

The rapid response teams will be targeting key early-morning and early-evening hours when outreach work is often limited, deploying a group of on-call workers from different areas of expertise.

"People that work in housing, people that work in financial situations, people that can help people get hooked up with insurance," explained Rik Cornell of The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester.

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