First-Ever Heroin Hackathon Seeks To Find Solutions To Opioid Crisis

By Victoria Kim 06/13/17

More than 50 tech savvy contenders participated in the Ohio-based hackathon to curb opioid addiction.

Group of students in a computer lab.

This past weekend, dozens of tech-savvy Ohioans gathered in the heart of Cincinnati for the first-ever Cincinnati Hacking Heroin hackathon. 

The event challenged more than 50 contenders—from local undergrads to Procter & Gamble employees—to find innovative solutions to the heroin/opioid epidemic. 

Some of the challenges included building a social network support system for families affected by substance use disorder and creating tools for first responders.

On Saturday, participants were primed on the opioid/heroin epidemic by those on the front lines of the crisis—police, first responders, health care experts, and more. Then the nine teams got to work on the potential solutions until the next day.

The winner of the $2,000 grand prize was Project Hope, a website that makes it easy to find and donate to organizations working to fight the heroin epidemic. The crowd favorite was Lazarus, the “Uber for requesting certified help,” and the winner of the community impact award was Window, a tool to get in touch with rehabs that could provide real-time monitoring of how many beds are available at the moment.

By addressing the opioid crisis from all angles, hackathon participant Michael Praksti, of Team Hope, says it makes the overall problem seem less daunting. “All together it seems insurmountable,” he said, according to “But little bit by little bit, we can chip away at this until it’s just a memory.”

In 2016, at least 4,149 Ohioans died of drug overdose, a 36% increase from the previous year. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 2017 is already on track to exceed last year’s numbers.

In May, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sued five opioid manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, accusing them of marketing and promoting powerful opioid meds while “overstating their benefits and trivializing their potential addictive qualities.”

In September, the three hackathon winners will get a chance to present their ideas to Microsoft and the Cincinnati City Council’s Education and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Councilman PG Sittenfeld, whose office helped organize the inaugural hackathon event, said that if the competition produces just one “minimal viable product,” then he would consider it a success.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr