Even with nearly $1 billion spent annually to fight opioid addiction, the State of Ohio is looking to the public for effective ways to save lives amid a national epidemic.
Following a $20 million commitment in June from the Ohio Third Frontier, an initiative designed to bolster the economy through seeding of startups and early-stage technology concepts, the state is now collecting responses for the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, which will use $8 million of that allocation. Announced on Oct. 18, the state is accepting ideas from around the world, “attacking” the challenge “from every direction including prevention, education, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement.”
Accepting responses until Dec. 15, the state is hoping to receive a submission that can reverse an escalating trend in a prescription opioid death toll that has tallied more than 183,000 Americans in a 16 year period. Ohio ranks third in the nation for opioid overdose deaths, falling only behind West Virginia and New Hampshire.
With such a widespread and growing problem, it seems everyone knows someone affected by opioid addiction, said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency.
“We’re hoping that it inspires people to take their idea and run with it,” Goodman said. “It’s like having an idea for an app or an idea for a business. A lot of times people will say they have all these ideas, but then never do anything with them. … We want to give them a venue to be able to put that solution to work.”
Submissions will be evaluated and five ideas selected to compete for a top prize of $10,000, along with 40 $500 runners-up prizes to be awarded early 2018. The most promising ideas will then be developed by the state in some fashion to augment its broader ongoing programs to stem an opioid addiction trend that is keeping the state’s morgues full.
“It doesn’t have to be a pharmaceutical, it doesn’t have to be a process,” Goodman said. “It can be any idea that you have in addressing this issue in order to try to save people from becoming addicted or using or overdosing or obtaining. It can be a solution that approaches this from any direction and we’re looking for an innovative way to do it that’s maybe outside the box that no one’s thought of before.”
Formed in 2002, the Ohio Third Frontier is a $2.1 billion initiative designed to support “the efficient and seamless transition of great ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace.”
Ohio’s challenge is the latest in a series of growing efforts by state and local governments to stop opioid death. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s annual Governor’s Datathon was themed this year around the opioid epidemic, similarly calling on the public for new ideas.
The State of Ohio released an RFP earlier this year for vendors to build a new data analytics system that could manage addiction, among other issues like childhood hunger and unemployment.