Researchers Aim to Offerfuller Picture of OD Deaths

By Signorini, Renatta | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 8, 2017 | Go to article overview

Researchers Aim to Offerfuller Picture of OD Deaths


Signorini, Renatta, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


A more complete picture of statewide overdose death statistics is slowly coming together on a website operated by University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy researchers.

In the past year, 17 coroners and medical examiners have begun sharing their data on Overdose Free PA.

“It’s an extraordinary program unlike anything else in the U.S.,” said Allegheny County’s medical examiner, Dr. Karl Williams, who, along with Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha, provided death data last year to get the program started. “There’s nothing like it for information about what is going on for overdoses in each of the individual counties.”

Researchers hope to house overdose death data from all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties on Overdose Free PA to aid in community prevention and enforcement efforts. So far, the 19 participating coroners and medical examiners have provided data for at least 2016, while some counties have several years’ worth of information and regularly update statistics as toxicology reports are completed.

Program director Lynn Mirigian wants Overdose Free PA, which is funded using state money, to be a hub in light of a growing nationwide epidemic that has killed thousands. In 2016, there were 4,652 drug overdose deaths in the state, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report. About 1,848 of them are on Overdose Free PA, which is a partnership of several state organizations and run by Pitt’s Pennsylvania Opioid Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center.

“The website was started to be a help to the coroners and a help to the community,” Mirigian said. “The coroner has to be willing to contribute their data. They have to sign off on it.”

The data provided by coroners is broken down into several categories, including gender, race, location of death, age and type of drugs in the person’s system. …

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