APHL has recently launched an Opioids Task Force to build environmental health laboratory capability for opioid testing and surveillance. Already the Task Force has a full agenda with plans to develop training, technical guidance and opportunities for collaboration and information sharing through meetings, conference calls and an online community of practice.
The Task Force also plans to assess laboratory capability for surveillance of non-fatal opioid overdoses. Currently, federal and state government agencies collect data on overdose fatalities but not on the thousands of cases that do not result in death. Without data on those who leave the emergency room as well as those who do not, the US is fighting a growing opioid epidemic with partial information.
Closing this data gap would allow public health officials to guide resource allocation for prevention and treatment, analyze trends in drug usage and evaluate the efficacy of interventions. Moreover, data on non-fatal overdoses would help laboratory scientists to identify novel opioids, thus curbing distribution of these substances across communities.
The establishment of the Task Force represents only one step toward these goals. Strengthening national capability to test opioids and monitor their use will require years of intensive work. APHL, its members and partners are committed to staying the course.
For more information, contact Julianne Nassif, MS, director, Environmental Health, firstname.lastname@example.org.