Using public records 📄 for a data-driven approach to combatting addiction 💊
Ocean County College
February 15th, 2019
- B.A. Political Science, Stockton University
- Former teaching assistant, constitutional law
- Background in web development, tech & journalism
The Open Public Records Act
- A state law, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq.
- Gives you the right to access public records
- Applies to state and local public agencies
- Courts and legislature are exempt
“OPRA’s clear purpose … is ‘to maximize public knowledge about public affairs in order to ensure an informed citizenry and to minimize the evils inherent in a secluded process.’”
Educ. Law Ctr. v. N.J. Dep’t of Educ., 198 N.J. 274, 284 (2009) (quoting Mason v. City of Hoboken, 196 N.J. 51, 64 (2008)).
OPRA can be used to obtain data on the frequency, location and details of overdoses.
This can be useful for researching the impact of opiates and client supervision.
Narcan is a powerful tool for reversing opiate overdoses.
Each time it is administered, a form is sent to the county prosecutor’s and state attorney general’s office.
View the documents online here
Can be requested from either the local police department or county prosecutor’s office.
Sample OPRA request:
“Copies of all Naloxone administration reports from December 1st, 2018 to January 31st, 2019”
(Not the drafting software!)
A searchable police database of calls & incident reports.
From the Brick Twp.Police Department
“Please provide the redacted incident and/or police reports for all overdoses or possible overdoses in Brick Township, NJ that police and/or EMS responded to. Please include 10/28/18-12/28/18”
CAD reports can also be requested by specifying an address and date range.
Some towns including Toms River and Seaside Heights are adopting a system called Active911 to coordinate first responders.
The app tracks and maps first responders using smartphones. It is proving to be a rich source of data requestable under OPRA.
The app, as seen by first responders
The data can be used to map incidents and study trends in drug activity.
- Use OPRA to obtain data about addiction in your community.
- Use the data to make 3 evidence-based recommendations to your mayor and police chief about how to address problem areas.
- Write a memo implementing your ideas. Support your recommendations with citations to the data.
Jobs program (2017)