Teams hope to mine data, find solutions for the opioid epidemic

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) David Conners hopes a few keystrokes -- or the click of the mouse -- could bring our area one step closer to ending the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Conners is one of the organizers behind the 2019 Virginia Tech Roanoke Center Opioid Datathon, an event that shares data with teams of students, academics, and researchers to crowdsource solutions.

"This is probably been our favorite projects," Conners said. "I can't thank anyone in the community enough. They have been so supportive of this initiative."

The event's modeled after a 2017 datathon thrown by then-Governor Terry McAuliffe, where 15 teams created apps and digital tools for opioid users, their families, and health care professionals.

When the call for participants went out among some Carilion experts, they had a problem: too many people wanted to help.

"It gives us a chance to step out of our usual lane and apply our perspectives and our creativity to approaching a problem from a new angle," Dr. Cassandra Mierisch said. "For us, that's really exciting."

An orthopedic hand surgeon, Mierisch follows trends in the opioid epidemic as the director of CORRIC, Carilion Opioid-Related Research Interest Community.

"I have been personally very gratified to see the number of people who are willing to take your personal time and hours and personal talents and put them towards the opioid crisis," Mierisch said of the people who volunteered for the upcoming datathon.

The Carilion crew had so many participants, they had to split into two teams. Though they're not sharing ideas, they say it's not exactly a competition.

"The goal is to see what difference we can make, and two teams are better than one," Mierisch said.

Organizers are still taking new teams, and the Carilion participants agree on this: the more the merrier.

The 2019 Virginia Tech Roanoke Center Opioid Datathon will take place Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center on North Jefferson Street.

For more information on registering for the datathon, click here.

Follow reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.