DHEC launches overdose biosurveillance dashboard to tackle drug overdose epidemic


COLUMBIA - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recently launched an Overdose Biosurveillance Dashboard in an effort to make state- and county-level data on non-fatal opioid overdoses and other drug-related overdose indicators available to the public.

South Carolina has seen a significant increase in opioid-involved overdose deaths during the last several years, with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids the most commonly associated drugs.

DHEC's new dashboard allows users to view available non-fatal overdose statistics for a variety of opioids, including fentanyl, as well as drugs like cocaine, xylazine and methamphetamine. The data and analytics are based on samples collected and tested anonymously from 30 participating hospitals across South Carolina.

"We wanted to make this data more publicly accessible because we think it will help a lot of treatment providers and local communities who are trying to respond to the drug crisis we have in our state," said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director. "The Overdose Biosurveillance Dashboard has near real-time surveillance along with data analytics to show trends with drug use and trends with drug overdoses in our state, and we think this will benefit those who are planning treatment to save lives and improve health outcomes."

In 2019, the South Carolina Public Health Laboratory received funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Overdose Data to Action grant to develop an Overdose Biosurveillance Program to test samples for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs from suspected non-fatal drug overdoses.

The CDC later expanded the scope of OD2A funding to encompass other illicit compounds, which led DHEC's Public Health Laboratory to begin testing for additional drugs, including xylazine, stimulants and benzodiazepines, among others.

Since the program began, DHEC's Public Health Lab has tested more than 16,400 residual urine specimens from suspected non-fatal overdoses. The data obtained from the analysis of these specimens is now being used to help identify trends in drug use and to help guide prevention efforts.

The data is regularly shared with hospitals, epidemiologists, policy makers and other public health professionals to address opioid and drug misuse in South Carolina communities. The public-facing dashboard will increase the data's reach and allow for additional efforts in addressing the opioid epidemic.

"The purpose of this dashboard is to not only understand the prevalence of substance misuse and incidence of overdoses in South Carolina, but also get better, faster, actionable insights for decision-making at all levels of public health," said Katie O'Shields, director of DHEC's Division of Epidemiology, Analysis & Data Visualization. "Public health practitioners, researchers and policy makers can utilize this data to learn more about the overdose epidemic, develop new programs, evaluate existing programs or responses, influence policy, drive decision-making and apply for grants."

Given the rapidly evolving drug landscape across the state and nationally, DHEC's Public Health Laboratory has the capacity to increase its drug screening panel as new drugs emerge in South Carolina.

Visit the DHEC website to view the Overdose Biosurveillance Dashboard at https://scdhec.gov/overdose-biosurveillance-dashboard. For assistance navigating and utilizing the dashboard, visit the Navigating the Overdose Biosurveillance Dashboard webpage at https://scdhec.gov/navigating-overdose-biosurveillance-dashboard.

For more information on DHEC's efforts to combat opioid overdose deaths, visit scdhec.gov/opioid-epidemic. For additional information and resources related to opioids, visit the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services website or justplainkillers.com.