Google puts resources into tackling opioid crisis

Google puts resources into tackling opioid crisis
Copyright 2019 CNN
OneFifteen will be a center dedicated to treatment and recovery services for people addicted to opioid drugs.

Dayton, Ohio, had one of the highest rates of fatal overdoses earlier this decade because of opioid addiction. Now the city will be home to a state-of-the-art treatment center that has the backing of Google parent company Alphabet.

Nonprofit OneFifteen opened part of its campus Friday. Its key investors and partners include Alphabet’s life sciences unit Verily and REIT Alexandria Real Estate. Verily and Alexandria Real Estate first announced that the center was opening in February.

Alexandria designed and developed the facility. Alexandria founder and executive chairman Joel Marcus told CNN Business that it has a 50-50 ownership split of the real estate with Verily.

The full facility will include six buildings for inpatient residents, outpatient care, family reunification and other social services. It is expected to be completed by 2020, Marcus said.

But OneFifteen is ready to tackle the crisis well before that. It will start to work with patients later this summer.

“We have a pretty big bold vision. We’re excited to get started and move pretty quickly. This crisis is something we really want to tackle head on,” said Marti Taylor, president and chief executive officer of OneFifteen, in an interview with CNN Business.

Taylor, a former nurse who then worked as a hospital administrator at Duke and Ohio State, said opioid addiction may now be the worst public health problem of our time, similar to the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s.

Verily brings an important tech focus to the table to help address the crisis. It will use data analytics to measure the effect of treatment. But Taylor said the Alphabet unit also realizes that technology is not the only way to treat drug addiction.

“This is as much about the physical facilities and the people involved in treatment as well as technology,” she said. “Our foundation is going to be based on a community approach. It’s high tech but also high touch.”

Taylor compared opioid addiction to other chronic illnesses that Verily is also working on treatments for, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“This is not a 30-day process where you are fixed and can just move on,” she said.

OneFifteen will also be working with several well-regarded health care companies, including Ohio hospital operators Kettering Health Network and Premier Health as well as Samaritan Behavioral Health.

Taylor said that for the time being, the focus will be on patients in Ohio but the OneFifteen model could eventually be replicated in other parts of the country where opioid abuse is prevalent.

She also said that OneFifteen will do all it can to make care affordable. She expects more than half of the center’s patients will likely have Medicaid or other forms of government insurance.

“We won’t turn the uninsured away and will work hard with them so they can get some type of coverage. We want to be accessible,” she said.

Taylor added that the main goal for OneFifteen will be to change its name one day. She said OneFifteen is a reference to a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that showed 115 people in the US died from opioid overdoses each day.

Sadly, that rate has only increased since then.

“It’s a staggering statistic and we hope the number comes down,” Taylor said.