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Notes From the Field: Understanding the Opioid Crisis Through Data and All-Stakeholder Reviews

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2018
3 pages

This brief describes the features and benefits of Milwaukee's (Wisconsin) two-pronged approach to the opioid crisis, i.e., building comprehensive datasets and conducting event reviews of opioid fatality cases.


As the opioid crisis in Milwaukee evolved over the past years, policymakers recognized it was impossible to determine the scope of the problem, because there was no centralized platform for capturing data across agencies and departments. Data silos existed for each of a variety of professional agencies responding separately to the opioid crisis. This includes law enforcement data, medical data, drug court data, and EMS data. These separated data silos restricted the city's ability to understand the opioid crisis or develop a multiagency response. A significant issue in sharing data across agencies is confidentiality, particularly when medical records are involved. Policymakers are discussing having individuals suffering from drug addiction sign a release form that will enable the compiling and sharing of criminal justice and health data on drug addiction. In Milwaukee, waivers have been helpful in improving drug-related data, but attention is being given to statewide legislation that would facilitate cross-agency information sharing. In Milwaukee, all-stakeholder, non-blaming reviews of overdose fatality cases are conducted to identify system weaknesses that might have contributed to a fatality. Attention is then given to creating partnerships, changing policies, or otherwise making adjustments to prevent similar outcomes. Cases reviewed thus far have included representatives from law enforcement, public health, the medical examiner, behavioral health, EMS, and individuals who increase the understanding of addiction from personal experience.

Date Published: April 1, 2018