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Medicolegal Death Investigation Partnerships on Overdose Fatality Reviews

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2022
9 pages

This report explains the main purpose and specific functions of Overdose Fatality Reviews (OFRs).



The main purpose of an OFR is to review drug overdose fatalities and find gaps in services that can be addressed to improve services that can save the lives of drug overdose victims. The importance of OFRs is heightened by the fact that drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the United States. An OFR requires a multiagency approach to sharing and analyzing information to ensure that all resource agencies relevant to responses to drug overdose victims are included in the OFR. Although the composition of OFR teams may vary, they typically consist of representatives of health departments, law enforcement, social service providers, and medical examiner and coroner offices. OFR teams identify gaps in services to overdose victims in terms of their scope, quality, and efficiency of delivery. OFR teams conduct detailed case reviews that examine a decedent’s life from a holistic perspective and focus on information gleaned from the death scene, medical records, law enforcement reports, and use of social services.  Some OFR teams even contact next of kin or others who were close to the decedent for a more personal and comprehensive examination of the decedent’s life. Reviewing these data helps inform the team of potential missed opportunities for intervention or prevention, which enables the team to develop recommendations to assist others in similar circumstances. The understanding that overdose deaths are preventable remains the guiding strategy behind the review process.

Date Published: July 1, 2022