Pennsylvania Statewide Codeathon Fights Opioids with Data

September 18, 2018 10:18 am PST | Data as a Service
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Pennsylvania is using data to fight the opioid epidemic.

The Code4PA Codeathon, set for Sept. 21 and 22, focuses on using data to improve efforts to prevent addiction, reduce overdose deaths, and expand access to treatment.

The codeathon, hosted in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, brings together diverse stakeholders from Pennsylvania’s communities, higher education and research institutions, private industry, government, and non-profits, with a range of skills and technical abilities, all united in trying to lessen the impact of the opioid crisis. After the weekend kick off, teams have a month to work independently before returning on pitch day with a substantive and well-developed solution.

“We saw this event as another way to support the administration’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic,” says Jere Ilene Matthews, Open Data Officer in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

A Focus on Opioids

Pennsylvania is among the states searching for solutions to end opioid and heroin abuse.

Governor Tom Wolf declared the epidemic a statewide disaster earlier this year, establishing 13 key initiatives to encourage collaboration between agencies and improve the tools and resources available to friends, family, first responders, and other key stakeholders.

“I routinely challenge all commonwealth agencies to think innovatively about how they continue to address the opioid epidemic and seek solutions that last long beyond our tenure in this building,” Governor Wolf said.

 

“We strived to identify as many datasets related to opioids as we could in time for the event and we plan to keep adding data sets long after it is over.” —Jere Ilene Matthews, Open Data Officer 

 

Codeathon organizers worked with the Opioid Command Center, which includes the Department of Health, the Department of Drug and Alcohol, the Department of Corrections, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Commission on Crime, and other departments involved in the response. They also collaborated with external stakeholders such as Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services and Rehabilitation, and Community Providers of Pennsylvania

“We’re talking to everyone we can,” Matthews says. “We strived to identify as many datasets related to opioids as we could in time for the event and we plan to keep adding data sets long after it is over. We going to keep pushing on to find more data that can help lead to solutions.”

 

A Successful Coding Event

Ideally, the codeathon will result in an app or solution to further prevention and treatment of people with an addiction to opioids, but that’s not the only way to define the event’s success.

 

“We are bringing together over 400 people from a variety of backgrounds and getting them involved in this issue. This will help them to form new networks and spur additional collaboration beyond the event. It’s the start of something that’s much bigger.” —Jere Ilene Matthews, Open Data Officer 

 

Matthews views the codeathon as an opportunity to encourage engagement. “We are bringing together over 400 people from a variety of backgrounds and getting them involved in this issue. This will help them to form new networks and spur additional collaboration beyond the event. It’s the start of something that’s much bigger.”

Another way to measure the event’s success is the massive influx of publicly available data surrounding the epidemic, along with a changing conversation around sharing data.

“Just a few years ago, departments worried about putting data out there because it would get misused or interpreted wrong. Now, we know ways to overcome that with detailed metadata and data dictionaries. Everyone is more comfortable sharing data.”

 

Register Now to Attend

If you live in Pennsylvania and are interested in participating, check out one of the four codeathon locations:

  • HU Harrisburg: 326 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101
  • HU Philly: 1500 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, PA 19130
  • Carnegie Mellon University Hamburg Hall: 4800 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213
  • The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health: 130 De Soto Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261.

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