PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health has launched an “enhanced, daily overdose surveillance system” in an effort to keep the community informed and help save lives.

In the past, the Health Department would track overdose-related emergency room visits and EMS runs to provide weekly updates on fatal and non-fatal overdoses.

With the new system, the department said it will use data on non-fatal overdoses to get alerts out in real time to first responders, health care workers, harm reduction centers and residents in affected areas.

Health officials said that while tracking fatal overdoses is important, it can take weeks to get them confirmed.

“The faster we can get overdose data to our community partners, the more effective their overdose prevention strategies will be,” interim Health Director Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH, said. “Using data to inform action is a key strategy in our work to prevent overdoses and save lives in Rhode Island.”

The system will also improve how the department monitors overdose trends and identifies hot spots, according to health officials.

In addition, the Health Department has implemented a new approach to addressing increases in overdose activity. Whenever there’s an increase, the affected area will be put in one of three categories — initial overdose spike, sustained overdose spike, or sustained high rate of burden — then the department will respond accordingly.

Visit the Health Department’s website to view the Drug Overdose Surveillance Data Hub.