In the summer of 2021, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded Bruce R. Schackman, CHERISH director and Saul P. Steinberg Distinguished Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Natasha Martin, CHERISH Research Affiliate and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Diego, a scientific conference grant to provide simulation modeling groups an opportunity to swiftly develop best modeling practices to inform public policy and reduce fatal opioid overdoses and injection-related hepatitis C and HIV infections in North America.
Drug overdose deaths have been increasing rapidly in the United States, contributing to nearly 90,000 deaths in the 12 months ending November 2020. Overdose deaths have also been rising in Canada during 2020, and the risks for greater opioid use are increasing in Mexico. Simulation models have demonstrated their relevance in informing policies and interventions to control the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to be a valuable tool to address the opioid crisis that is surging in this continent.
In November 2021, the organizing committee, including Schackman, Martin, Population Data & Modeling Core Director Benjamin Linas, and CHERISH Research Affiliate Ahmed Bayoumi, hosted the first conference, “Improving Opioid Overdose Modeling for Policy Change.” The forum was divided into three sessions and featured a robust panel who discussed their work happening on the ground across North America: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Mexico City, and New York.