DPH Releases New Data on Numbers of Suspected Drug Overdoses Seen in CT Emergency Rooms
Data covers January-April 2018
During the first 4 months of 2018, 3,090** visits for suspected drug overdoses were made to the emergency departments at Connecticut’s 27 acute care hospitals, according to preliminary estimates released today by the state Department of Public Health (DPH). These data are being made available through DPH’s syndromic surveillance system, EpiCenter, which provides near real-time estimates of emergency department (ED) utilization for suspected drug overdoses in order to quickly detect and respond to changes in patterns of both fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses.
“While the currently available data are preliminary and should be interpreted with caution, we are working to improve syndromic surveillance capabilities to provide real-time information to better understand the types of opioids, including fentanyl and associated substances, in combination with other emerging drugs, causing or contributing to unintentional overdoses and deaths,” added Dr. Pino. “We will be able to use the information that we gather through this system, in coordination with our colleagues in the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, state agencies, local officials, and community organizations to more effectively and rapidly respond to the opioid crisis.”
According to DPH’s preliminary data**, Connecticut’s EDs saw an average of 180 suspected drug overdose visits per week during January-April. The system provides information on the number of adolescent and adult ED visits for suspected drug overdose by county of residence. Hartford County saw a total of 1021 suspected drug overdose visits, followed by New Haven County (907), Fairfield County (416), New London County (178), Middlesex County (176), Tolland County (150), Litchfield County (129) and Windham County (113). Please see attached maps below for month to month breakdowns by county.
Syndromic surveillance is the use of pre-diagnostic data to understand diseases and conditions of public health importance. Limited patient information is collected including demographics and the reason for the ED visit; however, patient identifying information, such as patient name, address or phone number is not collected. Starting in January 2018, DPH added syndromes related to “drug and alcohol, including drug/opioid/heroin overdoses” to the list of reportable Emergency Illnesses and Health Conditions, allowing DPH to use data sent to the agency’s EpiCenter Syndromic Surveillance System to better monitor overdoses.
“The real-time nature of the data will allow us to respond more quickly to changes in patterns of nonfatal and fatal opioid overdoses and to design, target, implement and monitor more effective interventions to break the cycle of overdose and death and curtail opioid addiction in Connecticut,” added Dr. Pino. “The collection of overdose data is a work in progress, and we continue to collaborate with the hospitals to ensure that the data we are collecting provides enough detail to understand why individuals are seeking care in our emergency departments. Once we know the why’s, we can all work on the appropriate responses to help spare future individuals and families from the pain, heartache and loss caused by opioid addiction and overdose.”
In the fall of 2017, DPH received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Enhanced State Surveillance of Opioid-Involved Morbidity and Mortality grant in order to monitor fatal and nonfatal overdoses. This funding enables DPH to make enhancements to EpiCenter to monitor suspected overdoses related to all drugs/opioids/heroin and develop automated alerts to identify changing trends in ED utilization for suspected overdoses. Currently, only county-level data are available, but DPH plans to train local health departments/districts to access data for their jurisdiction during the summer once these new features are available to inform local decision making and to share with community partners.
Please see the DPH Opioid and Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program website for additional information: http://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Health-Education-Management--Surveillance/The-Office-of-Injury-Prevention/Opioids-and-Prescription-Drug-Overdose-Prevention-Program
**Editor’s Note: Since the first release of overdose visit numbers in March, changes were made to the definitions of “suspected drug overdose” to more accurately capture the data. Therefore, the previously reported numbers for January and February in the March 20, 2018, press release have changed and should not be used for comparison purposes. Please use only the numbers in the monthly maps below for month to month comparisons.
Emergency Department Utilization for Suspected Drug Overdose Visits, January-April, 2018