I have been regularly commenting that Pat Diamond and The Atlantic County Board of Health have done a tremendous job during the COVID-19 health pandemic.

Today, I want to shine the spotlight on a profound collaboration between the County of Atlantic and Atlantic Prevention Resources.

This vital public project has the potential to save lives going forward.

The County of Atlantic has contracted Atlantic Prevention Resources to conduct interviews and compile data to help prevent future deaths and overdoses, and, look for things that went wrong.

It’s called, the Overdose Fatality Review Team (OFRT).

Mission:  

The mission of the Atlantic County OFRT is to prevent future deaths from drug overdose, through a process of reviewing overdose fatalities to identify gaps in public systems and social services that might have made a difference.

Goal:  

The goal is to reduce overdose fatalities through targeted prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery strategies and programs.

Objectives:

Identify missed opportunities for prevention and intervention and gaps in systems.
Build working relationships between local stakeholders on overdose prevention.
Recommend policies, programs, laws, etc. to prevent overdose deaths.
Inform local overdose and opioid misuse prevention strategies.

The County and Atlantic Prevention Resources will also be working with the state of New Jersey to conduct the interviews.

By interviewing persons who knew the decedent, theIr goal is to find out what circumstances led to their demise and what might have been done to prevent the loss of life from happening.

Their specific project goal is to find out in a few people’s lives ... what was the cause of them dying from an overdose?

The Atlantic Prevention Resources “Mission Statement”

The prevention of the harm caused by substance abuse and violence.

Regarding the violence component of their mission, the emphasis is placed upon school bullying and gun violence in Atlantic city and Pleasantville.

Bob Zlotnick, Ph.D., is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Prevention Resources.  He well knows the significance of this important project.

I spoke with Zlotnick and asked him for his thoughts:

The work of the Overdose Fatality Review Team (OFRT) project will, in some sense, be like a “social autopsy”.

We will get some basic information about people who passed as a result of an overdose and then through research and key informant interviews, including family members, we will try to paint a picture of the last days, weeks, months and even years of a person’s life.

Through this we hope to find out what happened - what went wrong; what connections were missed and what opportunities may have been lost. How could this person have been saved?

This information, hopefully, will be used to guide our prevention, treatment and recovery support programs.

Further, this information statewide and nationally, can lead to innovative, new approaches and methods to prevent overdose deaths.

It’s like the NTSB finding the "black box” in a vehicle after a crash and finding out what went wrong in order to prevent future crashes, said Zlotnick.

Atlantic Prevention Resources and all of their working partners will protect the privacy and dignity of each person.

This important project will take place between now and September 30, 2021.

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