Brown launches resource to educate public about overdose prevention centers

PROVIDENCE – As Rhode Island is gearing up to open the country’s first state-authorized overdose prevention center, and with two publicly recognized programs in New York, researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health have created a set of resources to educate the public about these harm-reduction efforts.

The resources stemmed from researchers noticing a growing need for accurate, unbiased and updated information about overdose prevention centers. Beginning Feb. 14, anyone interested in learning about overdose prevention can visit opcinfo.org. There will be Spanish and Mandarin versions of the site available. The website also includes a searchable database of all research papers published on overdose prevention centers from 2010 to 2023, as well as fact sheets about laws and policy, cost, effectiveness and health impacts, among other topics.

The public’s curiosity about overdose prevention centers has dramatically increased since the two centers in New York opened in 2021, Brandon Marshall, project leader and researcher of overdose prevention centers, said in a news release.

Marshall, who is chair of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and founder of the school’s People, Place and Health Collective, said his research team often gets requests about overdose prevention centers from journalists, policymakers and advocates.

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“When we were first discussing this project, we saw an urgent need for information to be accessible to all of these audiences – a one-stop-shop for clear, accurate, up-to-date information and scientific research,” Marshall said.

The site includes international information but is particularly relevant to Rhode Islanders, as plans are in place to open an overdose prevention center in Providence this year.

“This field is evolving very quickly, as there are more sanctioned OPCs [overdoes prevention centers],” said Marshall who is part of a team of researchers from Brown and New York University Lagone Health evaluating the effectiveness of the centers and how they affect surrounding communities. “A major focus of opcinfo.org will be identifying, collating and disseminating U.S. research emerging from our team and others studying this harm-reduction strategy to address the overdose crisis in the U.S.”

Abdullah Shihipar, a research associate with the People, Place and Health Collective who is helping to oversee the opcinfo.org project, noted everyone in the U.S. is affected by the overdose crisis.

“This information hub contextualizes the overdose crises and explains what overdose prevention centers are and what they do, while providing current information and evidence-based research,” Shihipar said in a statement. “This is not an advocacy site; while our team believes that overdose prevention centers save lives, that opinion is informed by data and research.”

In the future, the project will include video and audio tours, as well as brick-and-mortar centers, according to the release. To create these, the Brown team is partnering with the organizations running the overdose prevention centers, including Project Weber/RENEW and VICTA in Providence and OnPoint in New York City.

“The goal is to give the public a better idea of what these centers actually look like because there are so few models in the U.S. and so many misconceptions of what overdose prevention centers are and how they work,” Marshall said.

The opcinfo.org project is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health through Rhode Island Hospital’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence on Opioids and Overdose, as well as from Vital Strategies, a global public health organization committed to equitable and sustainable reductions in fatal overdose and other preventable deaths.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com.