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Health, Behavior and Society

December 3, 2020

Bloomberg School of Public Health Team Awarded Grant to Evaluate Overdose Programs in Maryland

A JHSPH team has received a $975,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Health to increase understanding around overdose prevention and response programs in Maryland. 

The Maryland Overdose Data Collaborative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health received a two-year grant to conduct a rigorous and data-driven evaluation of Maryland’s overdose prevention programs. Awarded by the Maryland Department of Health, the $975,000 grant will engage stakeholders across the state and analyze data to inform the implementation of Maryland’s overdose prevention and response programs.

Ju Nyeong Park, PhD, MHS, assistant scientist in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society, will co-lead the project with Renee M. Johnson, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Mental Health.

An epidemiologist by training, Park has expertise in addressing issues around substance use, drug overdose, and infectious diseases. Johnson’s expertise includes adolescent and young adult health, particularly around areas of substance use and injury prevention.

Their new project, titled “Evaluation Services for the Maryland Overdose Data to Action Project,” will begin in December 2020. In Maryland, where overdose deaths have been climbing for the past decade, bolstering understanding of the state’s overdose-related programs is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the urgency. Deaths tied to opioid use were 2.6 percent higher in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019.

“This incredible opportunity will help to identify which programs and policies are working and where key gaps and disparities remain in the state’s response to reducing overdose rates,” says Park. “The evaluation team will critically examine multiple strategies that have been implemented, including key treatment and harm reduction programs.”

Park and Johnson will lead a team across the Bloomberg School of Public Health to evaluate Maryland’s overdose programs. They will use big data to anchor their evaluation, leveraging techniques like data harmonization, data linkage, and geospatial analysis.

“To reverse the state’s trend toward increases in overdose death, Maryland Department of Health is taking a comprehensive approach and pulling multiple levers to address opioid use disorder, promote harm reduction, and prevent fatal and nonfatal overdose,” says Johnson. “Our team will use advanced data analysis procedures to understand the impact of Maryland’s approach to date, providing insights to guide the public health response throughout Maryland.”

The team will collaborate not only with the Maryland Department of Health, but also with people who use drugs, community organizations, and other stakeholders to increase understanding of the key factors needed to scale up harm reduction efforts.

“My hope is that this project will help to shed light on the most pressing needs in relation to overdose risk in Maryland, especially in the era of COVID-19, and inform the state’s response,” says Park. “In the long term, this evaluation will help move us towards identifying and implementing effective data-driven solutions to the overdose crisis. We look forward to partnering with the Maryland Department of Health on this exciting endeavor.”


The team is comprised of Taylor Parnham, MPH, Ryoko Susukida, PhD, Masoumeh Aminesmaeili, MD, Alyona Mazhnaia, PhD, Saba Rouhani, PhD, Susan Sherman, PhD and Brendan Saloner, PhD.

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement number 6NU17CE924961 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through the Maryland Department of Health.