Dr. Karli Hochstatter Receives First R01 Award

Dr. Karli Hochstatter of Friends Research Institute (FRI) has been awarded an R01 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institutes of Health HEAL Initiative, entitled “Identifying Suspected Drug Overdose Deaths in Near Real-Time Using Data Collected by Death Investigators.” Along with Dr. Hochstatter, the interdisciplinary team of experts include Co-Investigators Dr. Jan Gryczynski of FRI and Drs. Nabila El-Bassel and Smaranda Muresan from Columbia University. This study aims to improve monitoring of overdose fatalities and overcome barriers associated with significantly delayed death certificate data for suspected drug-related deaths. In close collaboration with the New York City (NYC) Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), this study will comprehensively evaluate and refine a tool, named the Suspected Potential Overdose Tracker (SPOT), that uses data routinely collected during death investigations to identify accidental drug overdose as the cause and manner of death in near real-time. While preliminary findings show that SPOT is highly promising for identifying fatal overdoses in near real-time, there is a need to further enhance the tool, examine its performance across different subpopulations, and assess its performance and usability outside of NYC. Thus, this study aims to (1) Optimize SPOT through additional data from the NYC OCME to improve performance of the tool and develop advanced features using natural language processing; (2) Assess barriers and facilitators of adopting SPOT in preparation for its deployment through semi structured interviews with users of overdose mortality data; and (3) Evaluate the usability and performance of SPOT in coroner/medical examiner offices across New York State, including counties involved in the NIDA-funded HEALing Communities Study. The public health implications of adopting this tool are significant, as near real-time data on overdose deaths will allow for rapid data-driven decision making, the identification of gaps in public health and public safety overdose response preparedness, and opportunities to evaluate overdose prevention interventions, programs, and policies. If found successful, the SPOT methodology can be readily disseminated to other states to enhance surveillance of drug overdose mortality.