Earlier this fall, the first-ever Smart Regions conference looked to tackle some of the Tristate’s toughest issues, in addition to showcasing Smart Cities technology and talent through sessions devoted to autonomous transportation, dynamic public transit, energy and sustainability, and cyber-security.
Defeating the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic
One panel at the Smart Regions Conference, "Defeating the Heroin and Opiod Epidemic" featured Jennifer Brown, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Addiction Sciences in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.
The first question posed to the panel of doctors, treatment providers and law enforcement, "What is your single largest challenge?"
"Stigma," said Tom Synan, chief of police for Newtown, Ohio and part of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. Many others agreed.
Brown noted that opioid use disorder needs to be viewed as a disease, with managed care in the same way. "Addiction is a chronic disease, so for most people it requires lifelong management.
"We're really trying to think about those in the community or in the emergency department, not just how can they get there to our clinics and get the treatment they need, but also how we support the families, because addiction doesn't just affect the one person, it affect kids, it affects parents. How can we help treat the whole system affected by addictions?
"We need the social services to and the resources to get to the complexity of this problem.”
Moderator Zack Hahn asked about the use of data, looking at trackable, measurable outcomes so that we can track the progress or lack of progress ... will this help obtain funding and support and community building around this crisis?
Panelists largely seemed in agreement that the data is already there, and Synan rattled off a few daunting statistics for Hamilton County.
- 7,500 kits of narcan used with last 1 1/2 years.
- EMS/police responded to 8,000 overdoses at that time.
- A one-week spike of 200 overdoses.
- 5,0000 overdoses in a year; 430 people died in that year.
"It’s already an emergency.”
What’s next, is looking at the larger number of users who either don’t know or don’t care that treatment is available and this means using peer types who can make an impact.
We have to keep them in continuity of care... said another panelist.
In closing Hahn asked of each panelist, "How can the community collaborate with you?”
Brown tackled the question from a research angle. "Some of the technologies you are working on have greater promise with collaboration. We may not be IT folks but we can help you test them, we can provide the evidence, and see if the technologies would be efficacious and help our patients and we'd be happy to think about research collaboration, and, how can we get these technologies into the hands of our patients, who ultimately need them.”
Other panelists voiced the need to connect all the dots for greater resources and community effort.
This includes continuum of care, prevention, law enforcement, as well as engagement from communities, faith-based centers, and individual voices; it requires interdisciplinary involvement.
Ending Childhood Poverty and Homelessness, and Defeating the Digital Divide
Another panel at the Smart Regions conference, "Ending Childhood Poverty and Homelessness, and Defeating the Digital Divide” featured James Canfield, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the UC College of Allied Health Sciences. The group discussed the barriers keeping homeless and low-income students from getting access to the latest technology.
Sarah Trimble-Oliver, chief information officer with Cincinnati Public Schools, said 80 percent of school-age children in her school district are economically disadvantaged, with 50 percent of students having no reliable "always-on, always-accessible” computer and internet at home.
"As we are graduating children out of our school system, if they are lacking digital skills of how to use those technology tools for college and career, then we are straying from the focus of our district, which is making sure that when they leave us, they are ready to thrive in college and career,” Trimble said.
In an attempt to bridge the gap for home computer and internet access, Trimble said the district is providing laptops for all students in grades three through 12. In some of their blended learning programs, students will take home personal hotspots, also provided by the district.
"We know that it has to be uninterrupted access for students in that program to be successful,” Trimble said.
Having tech-savvy kids teach their parents how to use digital technology is the approach taken by Michael Beck, the founder of Code For Kids, an organization that strives to build a pipeline of diverse IT students to strengthen Cincinnati’s economy. He told the panel that 95 percent of the students at the schools he works with in the West End of Cincinnati live at or below the poverty level, and the majority of their parents don’t know how to use technology, which keeps them from getting better jobs.
"We are trying to engage the parents, by having the kids get their parents together in the room, and showing them how to use the technology,” Beck said. "That’s going to get kids and their parents engaged and we can hopefully engage the whole community in youth-based technology as a transformational tool for the neighborhood to enable everybody involved to get either education or job training.”
Regional Smart Cities Initiatives are nonprofit efforts that give local and regional leaders the tools to research, plan, fund, and build smart cities and connected communities. RSCI leadership is helping leaders launch local and regional smart city working groups and actively supports regional collaborations driven by best-practices standards and an agile planning framework.