News Release

New UK data system will help predict and prevent opioid overdoses in Kentucky

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Kentucky

New UK data system will help predict and prevent opioid overdoses in Kentucky

image: Co-led by Svetla Slavova and Jeff Talbert, RADOR-KY utilize artificial intelligence to help predict and prevent opioid overdoses. view more 

Credit: Arden Barnes | University of Kentucky Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 10, 2023)  University of Kentucky researchers are creating an innovative statewide surveillance system to inform prevention and response efforts aimed at reducing the burden of opioid use disorder in Kentucky.

The Rapid Actionable Data for Opioid Response in Kentucky (RADOR-KY) will use data from federal, state, and local sources to guide evidence-based practices aimed at preventing opioid overdoses in the Commonwealth. Phase one of the project is supported by a three-year $3.1 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and illegally manufactured fentanyl, drug overdose deaths in the U.S. increased to historic levels in 2021. Kentucky has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths reached an all-time high of 2,250, with 90% of those deaths involving an opioid.

Co-led by Svetla Slavova, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Public Health, and Jeff Talbert, Ph.D., professor in the College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy, RADOR-KY will use a comprehensive set of data needed to effectively monitor and respond to the rapidly evolving opioid overdose crisis.

The system will use advanced algorithms to rapidly process data and help predict potential overdose surges using artificial intelligence.

“This unique, first-of-its-kind system will not only track and monitor overdose cases but use predictive analytics and dashboards for fast dissemination of analytical results to keep state agencies and local stakeholders on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky a step ahead,” said Slavova, who also serves as interim associate dean for research in the College of Public Health.

RADOR-KY will use data from multiple sources, including the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics, syndromic surveillance, emergency medical services, prescription drug monitoring, Medicaid claims and drug seizure records. It will also track measures related to evidence-based practices such as treatment for opioid use disorder, overdose education and the distribution of naloxone, a life-saving medication that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

The project will leverage the expertise of UK research centers including the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, and the Institute for Biomedical Informatics. It also builds upon the expertise and experience gained from UK's work on the HEALing Communities Study (HCS).

“We’ve harnessed the power of our data processing capabilities at UK with the framework and experience gained from our work on the HEALing Communities Study, which has also shown that addressing this public health crisis requires working across disciplines,” said Talbert, who also directs the Institute for Biomedical Informatics.

“The HEALing Communities Study has been an exemplar of how a state and a university can work together and one of the deciding factors for receiving this award,” said HCS principal investigator Sharon Walsh, Ph.D., a professor in UK’s College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy and director for the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research.

Walsh leads the project’s substance use disorder team, which will advise on the content of evidence-based practices and state and local partners who are end users of the system.

Katherine Marks, Ph.D., a UK College of Medicine research assistant professor who serves as project director for the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, is the project’s state government liaison.

Marks says RADOR-KY’s faster data processing, predictive analytics and inclusion of evidence-based practices will help the state take more strategic action.

“The opportunity for state and community partners to have readily available access to data so we can take action and evaluate how we’re doing in our response is a remarkable innovation,” said Marks. “This is a wonderful demonstration of the collaborative potential between the state and university expertise. It’s also yet another example of how UK is working as the University for Kentucky.” 

An end-user advisory group, including partners in state government and local communities, will also guide the development of RADOR-KY. To advance the efforts to mitigate the opioid epidemic across the U.S. the team also plans to share programming code and algorithms in a public repository.

This project is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DA057605. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.  

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.