2018 Overdose Deaths




  • Overdose death rates dropped in all demographic groups, except for those over 55. Deaths in that age group increased by 29 percent between 2017 and 2018. Health officials saw another age-related shift as well: in 2017, people between 35 and 44 were the most likely age group to die of a drug overdose. In 2018, people between 45 and 54 were at “the most dangerous age” for drug overdoses, health department spokesman James Garrow said.


By Aubrey Whelan


Philadelphia has made a tiny bit of progress in combating overdose deaths. The official death toll for last year was 1,116 people, which is 100 less than in 2017.

The city has mounted a three-pronged attack on overdose deaths: getting more of the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone in circulation, getting more people into treatment and getting doctors to prescribe fewer opioids.


By Pat Loeb


he Philadelphia Department of Public Health found that the number of overdose deaths in the city dropped by more than 100 in 2018, marking a decline of 8% over the previous year.

Figures released on Tuesday show that there were 1,116 overdose deaths last year, down from 1,217 in 2017. While modest, the number is encouraging compared to the 34% increase from 907 deaths in 2016 to 2017.


By Michael Tanenbaum

Brotherly Love Report


PHILADELPHIA–The City of Philadelphia has issued a brand-new report, Brotherly Love: Health of Black Men and Boys in Philadelphia. This first-ever report is intended to highlight the unique challenges faced by Black men in Philadelphia today and lay the groundwork for actionable steps we all can take to improve their health outcomes.



The full report, Brotherly Love: Health of Black Men and Boys in Philadelphia, is available for download. City epidemiologist Raynard Washington said the statistics are meant to serve as a kind of blueprint to direct resources.

“Black men represent 20 percent of the population in Philadelphia — that’s a large proportion, a large share of the population,” Washington said. “So really thinking about how do we ensure that there is a complete wraparound [of] both services as well as supports and opportunity for them is important.”


By Jad Sleiman


“The first step to solving any problem is drawing attention to it,” said Thomas Farley, city health commissioner. “The Brotherly Love report shows that, while Philadelphia has many initiatives to promote health, African American men are still not as healthy as other demographic groups and not as healthy as they could be.”


By Rita Giordano

Philly Voice

A new report released Thursday by Philadelphia health officials shines a direct spotlight on the challenges faced by the city’s black men and boys.

The inaugural report, dubbed “Brotherly Love: Health of Black Men and Boys in Philadelphia,” revealed a mixture of positive and negative health findings.


By Jon Kopp

Philly Tribune

“Black men and boys have been experiencing disparate health outcomes for quite some time and in many areas we are seeing some improvements, “ said Dr. Raynard Washington, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s chief epidemiologist.

“In some ways, things are improving for Black men and boys, but there is still a gap between their health outcomes and others.”


Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a news release, “The first step to solving any problem is drawing attention to it.


By Ayana Jones

Philadelphia Sun

The City of Philadelphia has issued a brand-new report, “Brotherly Love: Health of Black Men and Boys in Philadelphia.” This first-ever report is intended to highlight the unique challenges faced by Black men in Philadelphia today and lay the groundwork for actionable steps we all can take to improve their health outcomes.


Buprenorphine Ad Campaign


Earlier today, the Commissioners of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services and Philadelphia Department of Public Health jointly announced a new mass media and digital advertising campaign intended to encourage people suffering from opioid use disorder, and their family and friends, to learn about medication-assisted treatment.



The Philadelphia Health Department has launched a new campagin to fight the opioid epidemic. The ads show the real faces of people in recovery. Ronald McAdams, who is featured in the campagin, says he hopes he can help others get help by sharing his story.



City officials don’t have a good sense of how many people use heroin every day in Philadelphia. Their lowest estimate is 50,000, and it could be as many as double that. Farley said this campaign is designed for all people who use heroin, not just those who are homeless on the streets of Kensington.

“That’s not your typical people who are using heroin,” he said. “Most of the people who are injecting drugs are living at home, many are employed, so they are in many ways a hidden population.”


By Nina Feldman

Philly Voice

“We need a media campaign to reach all the people in Philadelphia who might not be aware of this,” Department of Public Health Commissioner Tom Farley said.

The $200,000 ad campaign will include television and radio spots, print ads, social media posts and ads placed at Frankford Transportation Center and on bus shelters. It also includes three billboard advertisements – two along I-95 and another on Route 1.


By John Kopp


Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that despite an encouraging decline in deaths, Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic is still at crisis levels. The new campaign is being aimed at the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 heroin users in Philadelphia.

“Although our public image of people who are using heroin is people who are homeless on the street in Kensington, that’s not your typical people who are using heroin,” he said. “Most of the people who are injecting drugs are living at home, many are employed — they’re in many ways a hidden population. A hidden population we need to reach.”


By Aubrey Whelan


Advertising has proven effective at getting people to consume things. But will it work to get people to stop consuming drugs? Philadelphia health officials are hoping the answer is yes.

Officials have launched an ad campaign proclaiming “BUPE works.” BUPE, or buprenorphine, is medically assisted treatment for addiction and the target audience is drug users who are ready to give it a try.


By Pat Loeb

Inquirer Editorial Board

That’s why the Departments of Public Health and Behavioral Health are launching a $200,000 ad campaign in English and Spanish to raise awareness about the availability of medications that treat opioid addiction. The ads feature Philadelphians in recovery who use buprenorphine, or “bupe,” with the slogan, “Bupe works.” (The campaign directs people interested in treatment to call 888-545-2600 or visit www.BupeWorks.org.)


By Editorial Board

2018 Health of the City Report Issued

Today, Philadelphia Department of Public Health released the second Health of the City annual report, which describes the landscape of health for Philadelphia residents. Many health indicators are improving, but some indicators – particularly those related to opioid use and unhealthy behaviors – are troubling. Among the grimmest findings was that drug overdoses and homicides have caused a decline in life expectancy in Philadelphia. The latest data on teen health has good news though: cigarette use, drinking, sweetened beverage use, teen birth rates, and new cases of sexually-transmitted diseases have all continued to drop.


Health Department Website Launch

PHILADELPHIA–Last month, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) capped a nearly year-long effort to rethink, rewrite, and reorganize the web presence of the Health Department. The new website,  www.phila.gov/health, will allow residents to easily get access to information on preventing disease and living healthily, while providing direct access to nearly 100 services available to the public.


Postoperative Opioid Prescribing Guidelines

Press release

PHILADELPHIA — This morning, Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, flanked by surgeons from three of the major health systems in Philadelphia, announced the release of new, voluntary guidelines for surgeons to use when deciding if, and how many, opioids will be prescribed after a successful surgery. These guidelines are the first in the country that were built using evidence of actual use. 


Philadelphia Tribune

Philadelphia is trying to get doctors to prescribe fewer opioids to patients recovering from surgery through voluntary guidelines published for surgeons.

If the guidelines are followed, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, far fewer opioid pills will be prescribed in the city.


By Tom MacDonald


The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. The guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.

Philadelphia is the first city to take on the task. Health Commissioner Tom Farley says other efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions have paid off, but still a survey showed they’re at historically high levels.


By Pat Loeb


The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. KYW Newsradio’s City Hall bureau chief Pat Loeb reports the guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.


By Pat Loeb


Doctors want to keep patients out of pain following surgery, but research is showing opioids aren’t always the best option, they’re overprescribed, and too many pills end up in the wrong hands.

“With these guidelines, patients will not be suffering unnecessarily with pain,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley.

By Stephanie Stahl


“If all the surgeons in Philadelphia use these guidelines, this will reduce the use of opioids after surgery by more than 80 percent,” he said.

The guidelines call for using non-opioid pain treatments instead, which Farley says studies show are better for pain management.


By Tom MacDonald

Access to Care Report

Press Release

PHILADELPHIA — This morning, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, with the support of the University of Pennsylvania Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, released a report on the state of primary medical care in Philadelphia, Staying Healthy: Access to Primary Care in Philadelphia. This report found that while the total number of primary care providers in the city continues to rise, some neighborhoods–the Northeast and Southwest Philadelphia–have a significantly lower supply of primary care providers than other parts of the city.



In a city with more than 30 hospitals and five medical schools, it might seem that proximity to basic health care would not be a problem.

But the new report finds that parts of the Northeast and Southwest are officially “primary care shortage areas,” with one provider for every 3,500 people, far below the citywide average of one per 1,200 people.


By Pat Loeb


Currently, there is a six-month wait for a doctor’s appointment, said Joan Bland, the clinic’s director and a nurse. For a walk-in, there is at least a half-hour wait to see a health-care provider, she said. The clinic is adding patient exam rooms in the basement, and has hired more nurse-practitioners to help with the patient load.

The clinic is in an area rich with diversity. There are 12 interpreters on staff for patients who speak Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and Urdu, among other languages. Six staff members, who all speak at least two languages, help patients set up insurance, Bland said.


By Mari Schaefer


If the place had the feeling of bursting at the seams, it’s because it is – Health Center 10 is by far the busiest of the eight primary care health centers run by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. It sees 67,000 patient visits a year, and new patients add their names to a long waiting list for appointments. City clinics treat patients regardless of insurance status — making them the only option for many families. On Tuesday, the sound of a construction crew hammering away in the basement reverberated through the building – an effort to expand the number of exam rooms spaces.


By Nina Feldman

Philly Tribune

The study released on Tuesday by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health indicates that while the total number of primary care providers in the city continues to rise, some neighborhoods — the Northeast and Southwest Philadelphia — have a significantly lower supply of primary care providers than other parts of the city.

This shortage means that these areas, commonly low-income and with high proportions of racial and ethnic minorities, are forced to wait longer to see their primary care providers for routine appointments. For residents who utilize Medicaid as their health insurance, this report finds that many providers who accept Medicaid as insurance nonetheless do not make appointments available for Medicaid patients.


By staff