Overdose Fatality Review

Kendra Viner, the public health department’s opioid surveillance program manager, said the city has been planning an overdose fatality review for the past year, but it’s been delayed by legal challenges.


By Grace Shallow

Chinese Fentanyl in Kensington

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley told the Post that tackling overprescription is one of the city’s three prongs in confronting the opioid crisis.

In addition to developing policies that would prevent doctors from overprescribing pain medication, he said, the city’s Department of Public Health is also trying to reduce the bureaucratic hurdles that confront opioid users seeking treatment. That sticking point has become increasingly pressing with the rise of fentanyl, the short half-life of which means the window for intervention is far narrower than that of traditional opioids like heroin.

The department also hopes to make naloxone – the opioid overdose antidote – more widely available to the public, and is convening open training sessions across the city to educate members of the public on how to recognise and treat opioid overdoses.

Farley said he was not familiar with the Trump administration’s efforts to stem the production of fentanyl at its Chinese source. His department “would love to be able to reduce the supply to the streets of Philadelphia”, he said, with an important caveat: “I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.”


By Owen Churchill

Ventilation Fan Noise

The air management agency will investigate if someone complains, but it doesn’t take preemptive action to ensure that loud noise doesn’t become a problem, spokesman James Garrow explained in an email. So far, no one has complained to the agency about PMC’s ventilation fans.


By Inga Saffron

Starbucks Needle Disposal Boxes

“We really want to see more businesses taking on this responsibility and realizing that this is not only in the best interest of their customers, but also their staff who will have to worry about potential sticks if needles just end up in the trash,” Herens said.

Herens says it’s clearly a response to the opioid epidemic, but it also benefits others, such as diabetics, who inject themselves for health reasons.


By Pat Loeb

Childhood Lead Poisoning Report

Last week, DOH released the 2017 Childhood Lead Poisoning Surveillance Report, confirming that the number of poisoned kids remains oppressively intractable with 2,206 poisonings that year. This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, of course, because there is still toxic lead paint in many homes with young children.



Drop in Life Expectancy

They were victims of two tragedies – drug overdoses and homicides – now so prevalent in Philadelphia that they’ve helped drive down life expectancy in the nation’s sixth largest city.

Premature deaths have been increasing since 2015, according to the report released this month by the Philadelphia department of public health. Life expectancy began to fall after 2014, the city says. For men, it was 72.4 in 2017, down from 73.2 in 2013. Women had a longer life expectancy at 79.7, but that number has stopped improving.


By Erin Durkin

Rise in Cocaine and Fentanyl Deaths

“It is worth warning people at nightclubs who might use cocaine recreationally about the possibility of fentanyl contamination,” opioids program manager Kendra Viner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health told BuzzFeed News. But overall, only about 2% of seized cocaine vials in Philadelphia are contaminated by fentanyl.


By Dan Vergano

Naloxone Distribution

Per department spokesperson James Garrow, last year’s distribution efforts ramped up considerably. More than 26,500 doses of naloxone were distributed among first responders, law enforcement agencies, the city’s jail system, and community organizations. By the end of last year, that circulation had nearly doubled to more than 47,700 doses doled out citywide.


By Max Marin

Opioids Guidance

Guidelines such as those written by the CDC and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health hope to reduce the availability of prescription opioids as one solution to combat the epidemic. Instead of opioid medication for pain management, these guidelines recommend that providers offer non-pharmacological treatment such as physical and behavioral therapies. Unfortunately, most people cannot access these treatments or are unaware how they can help — both concerns that likely contributed to the opioid crisis in the first place.


By Amy Janke