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Facebook outrage leads to changes in how Bloomington displays overdose data



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Recent Facebook comments by Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge featured criticism about a city of Bloomington-run website which contained information about fatal overdoses in the city, including the exact addresses where those deaths occurred. 

That criticism sparked a closed meeting with city officials, and Mayor John Hamilton has since decided to change how the data is organized.

The site, BloomingtonRevealed.com, was launched in 2017 and contains data on the city, county, local nonprofits and more. 

Barge said the information "cannot stand" and she is worried the exact location of these fatal overdoses could embarrass those affected by substance abuse.

"I am so very disappointed that our city government appears to be so out of touch with WHO our community is" Barge wrote. "I am not the only one who has shared my concerns with the city and it doesn't seem like anyone gets it or listens."


Barge's post had over 170 comments, before further comments were forbidden. One of those comments came from Mary Catherine Carmichael, Bloomington's director of community engagement, who called Barge's post disingenuous.

"Of course this data is painful to our community -- as every overdose death is," Carmichael wrote in her post, "But transparency and facts and clear-eyed approaches to health crises are all essential. Your expressed shock seems contrived and intended to agitate and divide, rather than work together to address this health crisis."



This debate led to a closed-door meeting between Bloomington city officials and social service leaders Tuesday, according to the Herald-Times

According to a Bloomington press release, the data will no longer have the exact street address for each overdose death. Instead, the map will tell viewers whether the address was a business, residence or public property.

The specific address information will still be available on the site, but no longer displayed on the map.

"Sharing this public data about where these deaths are occurring can help give those working toward a solution more tools to help those who are suffering," Hamilton said in the release. "At the same time, we understand that this is a sensitive issue. As we have done since launching the site, we will continue to consult with those on the front lines of this crisis to follow best practices.” 

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