How an Addiction Data Platform is Helping Virginia Cope With the COVID-19 Outbreak

Virginia has been using a cloud-based, cross-agency, data-sharing analytics platform to coordinate the fight against addiction since 2018. The Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT) is now being expanded to help the Commonwealth mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

First launched by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) with support from Qlarion and championed by the Commonwealth’s Chief Data Officer, Carlos Rivero, FAACT was instituted in 2018 and significantly expanded in 2019 to help Virginia communities confront the challenges posed by the opioid epidemic. The experience gained in that process is now being utilized to contain the coronavirus outbreak.  

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have relied on data and science to better understand this novel virus and guide our decision-making process,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a press release in June. “The expansion of the FAACT platform is enhancing the way our state agencies and local health partners work together to protect the health and safety of Virginians, and helping us chart a safe, measured, and successful path forward.” 

In a single platform, FAACT combines data from a variety of state and local organizations to generate actionable insight about the contributing factors to opioid use and the most effective ways for communities to respond. Now, Virginia is using this framework to support its continued response to COVID-19.

“By sharing data from disparate systems, FAACT has assisted criminal justice entities, health and human resources, and social services agencies in making proactive decisions to address the substance use and abuse crisis,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “I am grateful that the FAACT team was able to apply this framework to address the health needs that have quickly arisen due to COVID-19.”   

It could be the perfect tool because the two public health problems are in fact correlated. People with addiction are at a higher risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow warned in April that “the research community should be alert to the possibility that [COVID-19] could hit some populations with substance use disorders (SUDs) particularly hard. Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape. People with opioid use disorder (OUD) and methamphetamine use disorder may also be vulnerable due to those drugs’ effects on respiratory and pulmonary health.” 

Tracking both COVID-19 and opioid addiction could turn out to be a highly efficient way to tackle both problems. And the FAACT platform is already in use. 

“This expansion of FAACT unites information from sources across the Commonwealth to provide decision-makers with the insight needed to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic,” said Carlos Rivero. “Better yet, we were able to do so quickly and efficiently. Had we not previously had the technical, legal, and governance infrastructure in place through FAACT and the corresponding Commonwealth Data Trust, the expansion that took us just days to complete would have taken months. We were prepared and that preparation allowed us to best support our constituents and communities during a time when it’s needed the most.”

Data included within FAACT is updated frequently, in some cases, as often as every 15 minutes, to provide Virginia’s leaders with near real-time information to make critical response decisions. As a result, the Commonwealth will be able to quickly identify hospitals in need of supplies and pharmaceuticals, hospitals and regions that have surge capacity (i.e. available hospital beds and ventilators or the ability to quickly stand up an overflow hospital), and locations with the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 cases.

“We started this project as a data-sharing collaboration for public safety and behavioral health agencies to address the opioid crisis and save lives,” said DCJS Director Shannon Dion. “We are proud that the FAACT infrastructure is similarly helping Virginia save lives during this health crisis.”  

The coronavirus outbreak has had a significant impact on the addiction crisis. Isolation and stress due to the pandemic are currently causing an increase in the number of patients with SUD. Many families have observed loved ones engage in progressively unhealthy behaviors but feel unsure what options are available to them. 

The Farley Center team continues to help addicted people to the best of their ability despite unprecedented circumstances. People in active addiction ready to go into recovery should not delay seeking treatment for their disease. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse but you are unsure what addiction treatment services are available at the moment, please contact The Farley Center at 800.582.6066 to find out about your options.