The consequences of substance abuse impact the economy of District of Columbia communities in numerous ways, including the costs of treatment, incarceration, and health care of substance users. Indirect consequences also affect the overall safety and well-being of a community and its residents—as measured by, for example, alcohol and drug-related arrests, incidents of drunk driving, and substance use during pregnancy.
As the leader of the District of Columbia Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (DCEOW), we are responsible for collecting, analyzing, and reporting substance use, incidence, prevalence and other data related to substance abuse in the nation’s capital. We serve as coordinators of the workgroup, charged with promoting data-driven thinking to guide efficient and effective use of prevention resources.
Sharing Data Supports Needs Assessments, Prevention Policy, and Planning
Integral to this overall goal is the DCEOW Data Dashboard, an interactive, user-friendly and web-based tool designed to share District of Columbia substance-related data. Developed by our experts, the dashboard shows estimates from national survey data and administrative data collected within the District. It also displays percentages with confidence intervals, rates over time, bar charts, neighborhood maps, and other data and graphs designed for consumption by addiction and recovery experts.
As project leaders, our researchers collected metadata from existing surveys, the U.S. Census, arrest records, and other sources and consolidated it for analysis in support of needs assessments and epidemiological profile reports.
The dashboard provides graphics that illustrate use of a number of different substances, consequences stemming from substance abuse, and risk factors that increase the chances of substance abuse. Encompassing data on populations and subpopulations in the District, some of the survey data highlight trends found to be statistically significant, including differences over time or between subpopulations.
Prior to introduction of the DCEOW dashboard in 2015, there was no easily accessible source of readily available data and analysis that could be analyzed by DC’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration to assess the characteristics and needs of the District.
Now, ARPA and other agencies are able to make more informed decisions about programs, policies, and practices aimed at reducing substance use in the District.
Integrated Data Informs and Enables Better Prevention Practices
Thanks to the work of the DCEOW researchers, the dashboard provides a broad view of substance use data currently available for prevention planning. It also highlights gaps in data and key areas in which the District might target substance use prevention resources and efforts.
As we continue to support the workgroup, our experts will lead the next phase of the project, making the dashboard and its data available to the public so that communities can understand the scope of substance use among their members and engage in their own substance use prevention efforts.