Booz Allen Interns Develop Innovative Solutions to Help Combat the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic

Jul 17, 2018 5:00 PM ET

The opioid epidemic is ravaging communities across the United States. The issues surrounding addiction, treatment, and prevention are complex, and require an enormous level of collaboration among public safety and public health agencies. While there’s no single path forward to prevent opioid overdose deaths and treat opioid use disorder, it’s clear that innovative solutions are needed.

Three teams of Booz Allen Hamilton’s Summer Games interns are offering creative approaches to tough challenges within the vast ecosystem of the national opioid crisis. They’re applying data analytics and machine learning to develop tools to more accurately measure pain, assess harm reduction interventions, and understand narcotic supply chains.

Learn more about the teams’ work in their own words:

Using Natural Language Processing to Assess Public Perception of Treatment Interventions

“We’re designing a digital listening tool to better understand how the public feels about harm reduction interventions, such as supervised injection facilities to treat opioid addiction,” says Jeremiah Akinbohun of the DC-based team. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. It’s critical that we implement prevention and treatment interventions, however societal perceptions and barriers often impede the successful rollout of treatment interventions. Our software-based analytical tool uses natural language processing and machine learning to assess how concerns and support for supervised injection facilities are being described in the news and on social media. It gives policymakers the qualitative and quantitative data they need to better educate communities and individuals, and address concerns about treatment interventions in real time.” 

Personalizing the Pain Scale with Facial Recognition Tech

“We’re developing an app that uses facial recognition to detect emotions, specifically pain,” says Francesca Dahut of the DC-based team. “Redefining and personalizing the medical scale, this tool could help doctors more accurately measure pain, so they can appropriately prescribe opioids. The over-prescription contributes to future addiction and abuse, while under-prescription can lead to patients seeking illicit and more dangerous drugs. Our app gives doctors an unbiased measurement of patient pain. The software includes machine learning and a convolutional neural network for emotion detection. Combined with other interventions, our app provides an innovative solution to this growing epidemic.”

Making America More Secure Through Fentanyl Supply Chain Analysis

“Our team is analyzing how synthetic opioids can be used as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), and how to prevent it,” says Luigi Penaloza of the Alexandria-based team. “Using open-source data, we’re conducting supply chain and social network analyses to understand the proliferation and threats associated with synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Our main goal is risk mitigation. Understanding the threat vectors of these drugs and securing illicit lines of communication can help defend against the proliferation of opioids as WMDs. Analyzing data and providing a concrete solution to prevent chemical weapon use in the United States, we’re creating a reliable blueprint for organizations combatting crime and terrorism.”

Learn more about how Booz Allen’s Summer Games interns are empowered to change the world.