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Staten Island, N.Y., Predicts Opioid Overdoses With AI

A new public-private partnership in Staten Island, N.Y., has led to a program that uses predictive analytics to identify those who are most likely to experience a fentanyl overdose.

(TNS) — Two days after leaving a treatment facility, Staten Island native Samuel Grunlund, 27, died of a fentanyl-related overdose.

Grunlund's sister, Megan Wohltjen, said nothing could prepare her for the moment she saw her baby brother laying lifeless in a casket.

"My brother really tried to get clean; he was in more treatment facilities than I could count," Wohltjen said, adding the experience was like watching her brother drown.

Since her brother's passing in March 2020, Wohltjen has advocated for addiction services — last Sunday, she ran the TCS New York City Marathon 2021 wearing his cap to raise money for Partnership to End Addiction.

On Wednesday she joined former-Congressman Max Rose, senior advisor to the Secure Future Project; Dr. Brahim Ardolic, president and CEO of Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH); Dr. Joe Conte, executive director of Staten Island Performing Provider System (SI PPS); District Attorney Michael McMahon, and other officials as they announced a new public-private partnership — Hotspotting the Opioid Crisis — that will help identify those at risk of an overdose before it happens.

Using artificial intelligence, the SI PPS and the MIT Sloan School of Management developed a predictive analytic program that will pull data from more than 70 providers and partners on Staten Island to identify who is at highest risk of an overdose.

Once identified — using data about pre-existing conditions, prescriptions, justice involvement, law enforcement and more — it will deliver peer-led, person-centered services to individuals where they are.

"This program is most innovative thing we could find. As a consequence of this program, people will live who would have otherwise passed away," Rose said.

The district attorney said quick intervention makes the difference between life and death — exactly what Hotspotting the Opioid Epidemic is expected to do.

The Secure Future Fund made a $3 million investment to the program; Northwell Health made a $1 million investment.

"This public-private partnership is an opportunity to reach out to people and change their lives using technology. We haven't figured out how to electronically disrupt [the opioid problem] and I think this is a big step forward," Ardolic said.


There have been 72 overdose deaths so far this year, McMahon said, "and it's expected to grow."

Fentanyl — a deadly substance now being found in cocaine, heroin, counterfeit pills and even marijuana — is largely to blame for the rise in fatal overdoses.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

On Staten Island, fentanyl was found in 80% of toxicology reports from 2020 — a percentage that was less than five in the early 2000s.

"It cannot be overstated how dangerous fentanyl is. It's everywhere, and it's killing people ever day," he said.


Providers will each be given two fully-funded staff members: one dedicated clinician and one Certified Peer Recovery Advocate (CRPA).

Conte said more than 75 CRPAs have been trained in the last four years.

It has been shown that peer outreach to those with substance misuse disorder is more effective, so they will take the lead engaging at-risk individuals in a non-threatening manner.

An individual's prior history will determine what services are provided, whether it be housing, employment, behavioral therapy, a primary care physician or other needs.

The program will also integrate an innovative care reimbursement model for partners.

"We really know that providers in the substance misuse space are not adequately reimbursed. If we do not see a new payment model, any of the work we do will have come up short," Conte said.

©2021 Staten Island Advance, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.