New Initiative Announced to Confront The U.S. Opioid Overdose Epidemic

Unfortunately, most of us have a connection to the opioid overdose crisis now hitting the United States, whether through the struggles of a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor. Here’s a statistic that brings the epidemic home: Today, more than 2 million people in the United States are addicted to opioids, which are responsible for more than 130 deaths in America per day. The U.S. government is comprehensively working to address the epidemic, but it will take all sectors working together to tackle a problem of this magnitude. We all have a role to play.

To that end, Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced a $50 million investment in combatting the opioid epidemic in the United States. In this effort, partners including Vital Strategies, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the CDC Foundation, will help up to 10 states over the next three years implement solutions to strengthen prevention and treatment efforts that offer the most potential to address the root causes of opioid addiction.

With the overall goal of preventing opioid overdose deaths, our work in this effort aims to equip states and localities with the tools necessary to develop and implement processes for improving collaboration between public health and law enforcement. These improvements in sharing will ultimately lead to coordinated and informed response efforts at the local level.

States need guidance on how best to monitor trends in real time using various data sources, detect high priority areas and effectively guide the deployment of resources. Using this guidance and targeted technical assistance, states and localities can roll out their own procedures for responding to opioid overdoses modeled after the RxStat initiative.

RXStat is a model for advancing a shared understanding of the patterns and characteristics of problem drug use—including prescription opioid misuse—in a local jurisdiction. The RxStat initiative was established in New York City in 2012, emerging from the cross-disciplinary identification of local health and social problems related to prescription opioid misuse.

To support this work with the states, our effort with CDC has four activities.

  • To meet with stakeholders to gather information on how to best develop usable documents and tools.
  • To develop a best practices toolkit that optimizes the RxStat model of public health and public safety collaboration within states, ultimately leading to improved coordination and response.
  • To pilot test the toolkit in four geographically diverse states or localities.
  • To monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of these pilots and disseminate the toolkit and best practices widely. 

This toolkit and its implementation in high-burden states or localities will serve as data-driven anchors to a sustained, coordinated and effective public health and public safety response to the opioid overdose epidemic.

The opioid overdose epidemic in the United States is a large-scale emergency, one that is too large for any individual organization or sector to tackle alone. That’s why it is vital for partners to work across the government, philanthropic and private sectors to address this emergency, while ensuring that investments are complementary and utilize data and extend practices known to be effective. Together we can reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdose.


Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.