AHRQ: Online Data Tool Shows Impact of Opioid Crisis at County Level

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released an online statistical resource that for the first time provides county-level comparisons of hospitalization rates for substance use, including opioids, alcohol, stimulants and other drugs. The resource draws from the agency’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) – the nation’s most comprehensive source of hospital data, including information on inpatient care, ambulatory surgeries and services, and emergency department visits.

While statistics show that alcohol-related hospitalizations ranked first in most communities, opioids and stimulants ranked second or third for hospitalizations in nearly all of the more than 1,600 counties and two cities that provided data in the analysis. AHRQ’s analysis examined 2014 hospitalization rates for a wide range of substances, including alcohol, opioids, cannabis, hallucinogens, sedatives, hypnotics, stimulants and other drugs, as well as drug-induced mental disorders. The new resource allows statistics to be broken down by age group, sex, payer and type of stay. Downloadable tables, graphs and maps are available for users to compare counties within a specific state, as well as with counties in other States.

In support of the national effort to tackle the opioids epidemic, the Agency has updated its interactive online map of the United States to provide county-specific statistics on opioid-related hospitalizations for the 32 participating states. AHRQ’s ongoing monitoring of local opioid hospitalizations aligns with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) goal of increasing data availability for policymakers and others, part of HHS’ Five-Point Strategy to combat the opioids crisis.

AHRQ’s new resource also allows a focused look at hospitalization rates for specific substances, a feature with the potential to support policymakers and public health advocates seeking to prioritize and tackle local substance use challenges. For example, Cook County, Ill., had an opioid-related hospitalization rate of 440 per 100,000 people in 2014. The rate for Starr County, Texas, meanwhile, was only 18 per 100,000 people.

AHRQ will update the resource as more data become available. The ongoing analysis will help public health officials, clinicians, first responders, researchers and others to understand local trends, including hospitalization rates associated with the ongoing opioid epidemic.

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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