Gibbons Student Harriet Fisher ’17: Mapping Drug Arrests in Maine

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Drug arrests in Maine, by county

Gibbons fellow Harriet Fisher ’17 is delving into Maine’s recent drug-arrest data to see if patterns emerge that could illuminate demographic trends within the opioid epidemic gripping the state.

As a government and legal studies major, and president of the Bowdoin Student Government, Fisher said she took on the data and mapping project because she’s interested in pursuing a career in public health. She is assisting Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Brian Piper.

Fisher has been collecting drug-arrest data compiled by a statewide program called Diversion Alert, which provides access to drug-arrest data for medical providers. This info, according to the organization, could help healthcare workers better treat patients who have a history of drug use.

Fisher said she “grooms” this data for demographic or socioeconomic indicators that she then portrays visually with maps. For instance, she can determine the frequency of drug arrests in towns and compare these figures to the local population’s average income, education level, or employment data. She’s also making map for an article Piper is wring on the efficacy of Diversion Alert, and doing her own research and mapping of people who are arrested for prescription drugs that are non-controlled,

For Fisher, the data is not completely dry and divorced from real people and real lives. “Some of the arrests are heartbreaking,” she said.

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