Gathering Insights from Cincinnati’s Heroin Tracker

June 26, 2017 12:00 pm PST | Data as a Service

“The opioid addiction crisis rampaging across the country hit my home city of Cincinnati with a terrible fury last summer. In one sweltering week in August, our first responders were deluged with emergency calls to deal with a record 174 overdoses of heroin,” writes Brandon Crowley, Chief Data Officer for the city of Cincinnati, in a recent article on

It’s an epidemic that’s occurring across the nation, in urban areas and in rural ones, and affecting people of all ages, incomes, races, and other demographics. To respond, Crowley points out, requires knowledge of where and when overdoses are occurring. “We need data, presented in an analytical way that helps us target our limited resources,” Crowley says.

Read More: The Launch of Open Data Cincinnati

During a presentation at Socrata Connect, Crowley outlined precisely how the city of Cincinnati uses a dashboard — known as the Heroin Tracker — to share information on heroin usage and overdoses within the city, as well as how the city then use that data to steer its response.


heroin tracker


The Heroin Tracker breaks out incidents for the past 13 months by location, volume, day and time, and transport outcome. It shows, for instance, the neighborhoods with the most incidents (West Price Hill and Westwood) and that incidents tend to occur from late afternoon through the evening, with the pace slowing down after 8 or 9 p.m.


How Data Drives Cincinnati’s Response

The information available on Cincinnati’s dashboard serves a multitude of purposes. For one, it gives residents, who can browse by neighborhood or street name, help answering the question, “How is the epidemic affecting my neighborhood?” without needing to contact their councilperson.


“…sharing data about opiate overdoses is functionally no different than sharing data about any other civic challenge. The act itself becomes a motivation to take action.” —Brandon Crowley, CDO for the city of Cincinnati, in


As well as being a valuable way to communicate to the community, the Heroin Tracker also reveals trends that help the city of Cincinnati preemptively direct its efforts. Using insights from the data, the city has been able to identify high usage locations and “strategically deploy roving medic units so that they can be in those hotspots,” says Crowley. The city’s public safety presence has also increased in these same locations. In addition, the data is also used by area nonprofits and charities to target their efforts.


A Data-Led Fight Against the Heroin Epidemic

To learn more about Cincinnati’s use of data in its response to burgeoning heroin usage within the city, watch Crowley’s full presentation at Socrata Connect, along with insights from National League of Cities City Solution Director Jim Brooks.

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