CDC Foundation Advances Overdose Response Strategy with Nationwide Support

Drug overdoses have dramatically increased over the last two decades and from 2019 to 2020 deaths increased by almost 30 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999 more than 932,000 people have died from a drug overdose. To aid in addressing the overdose epidemic, the CDC Foundation in support of the Overdose Response Strategy (ORS) has hired 60 public health analysts to partner with public health and public safety offices across the nation.

The ORS is a unique collaboration between public health and public safety, funded by CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to help local communities reduce drug overdoses and save lives by sharing timely data, pertinent intelligence and innovative evidence-based strategies. The ORS covers all 50 states, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands and is supported by the CDC Foundation and 33 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA).

With resources from CDC’s Injury Center, the CDC Foundation has supported the public health efforts for the ORS program by building capacity and fully staffing the nationwide program by recruiting, hiring, training and managing public health analysts as well as hiring support staff for program management and technical assistance. States with larger jurisdictional areas such as California, Florida and Texas have multiple public health analysts. In addition, the CDC Foundation has built multisector partnerships, developed strategies and jurisdictional strategic plans, provided technical assistance and training and overall programmatic implementation and evaluation for the public health portion of the ORS program to form the foundation for public health and public safety partnerships.

“We are in an overdose epidemic, and to help combat it we need both public health and public safety working together,” said Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “By sharing data, insights and trends related to drug overdoses in communities, our staff members are working in the ORS network to establish early warning signs and prevention strategies to address the epidemic. The ORS program is helping communities develop local solutions to reduce overdoses and encouraging individuals to make healthier, safer choices.”

“As the epidemic continues to worsen, we need an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach,” said Rita Noonan, branch chief, Prevention Programs and Evaluation Branch, Division of Overdose Prevention, CDC’s Injury Center. “CDC is eager to work side-by-side with public safety partners across the nation to help states and communities apply data, innovation, and evidence-based strategies to solve local problems.”

“President Biden called on the nation to come together and beat the overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “His National Drug Control Strategy prioritizes actions that will expand access to effective prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery support services, as well as strengthen our efforts to stop the trafficking of illicit drugs. It also emphasizes the importance of public health and safety partnerships like the Overdose Response Strategy to help us meet people where they are in order to save lives. ONDCP is proud to partner with CDC’s Injury Center and work with the CDC Foundation on this initiative that brings public health and public safety agencies together to reduce fatal and non-fatal overdoses and supports evidence-based interventions.”

The ORS is implemented by teams made up of drug intelligence officers and public health analysts, who work together on drug overdose issues within and across sectors and states. These teams form the foundation of ORS and are able to simultaneously promote public health and public safety efforts.

In the ORS, drug intelligence officers track and relay information regarding sentinel arrests, seizures and other incidents to law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. Public health analysts serve many roles including enhancing statewide overdose reporting and interagency data sharing, analyzing and interpreting data, identifying prevention interventions and providing support to both public health and public safety ORS partners within their states and jurisdictions. The public health analysts provided by the CDC Foundation form a critical link across public health and safety entities to share actionable information to identify and prevent overdose events. Daily public health and public safety collaboration allows for a wide range of issues to be addressed more effectively and efficiently.

The ORS teams allow for the exchange of data to happen quickly therefore building the evidence for overdose prevention and response initiatives and allowing for earlier warnings and informed decision making. In addition, the ORS encourages more inclusion and cultural understanding between sectors and mobilizes community partnerships and informs and engages decision makers with data.

Portions of the project mentioned in this press release are supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $12,665,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.