Tempe launches online database to help combat opioid abuse

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

A new online database launched by the City of Tempe aims to help the community combat the opioid epidemic. Addiction recovery advocates hope the information is used to improve treatment for addicts, but not lead to more arrests.

The website contains data compiled by the Tempe Fire Department. It breaks down more than 500 medical calls in 2017 where opioid abuse was suspected.  The information can be searched by gender, age group and days of the week.

Councilmember Joel Navarro created a council working group to help develop and launch the online tool.  Navarro is also a Phoenix firefighter who does not want to respond to another overdose call.

[RELATED: Arizona Legislature passes law tackling rising opioid crisis]

“When you see opioids being abused at a young level, or a young age, it really kind of hits home on where are they getting this, why are they getting this,” says Navarro. 

Navarro says the information can be used to fine-tune prevention programs used in the high schools, identify locations for a potential pilot program to install needle disposal boxes, and apply for funding to help addicts pay for treatment.

[RELATED: Arizona governor signs law he sought to target opioid abuse]

The online tool also has a map showing where opioid-related medical calls originated.  Addiction recovery advocates do not want the data to help law enforcement locate and lock up addicts.  Navarro says law enforcement may use the information, but he believes the data will reveal opportunities for the city’s crisis response teams.

“Obviously we’d like to get those dealers, we'd like to get those people off the streets,” says Navarro.  “If information from the data can help achieve some of that, then great.  We get those people off the streets. We really want to get people help, though.”

[SPECIAL SECTION: Opioid Crisis in Arizona]

The city says the information will be updated monthly, and other cities have already expressed interest in using Tempe’s model.  As more agencies contribute, Navarro says, officials can better target city resources.

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