“This is rising,” Health Department spokesperson Jim Garrow told Billy Penn. “We think that people are calling 911, administering naloxone and then the person is revived. Their life is saved. And they don’t want to wait for the ambulance.”
By Max Marin
In 2018, Philadelphia saw a modest decrease in overdose deaths — from 1,217 in 2017 to 1,116. Unfortunately, the decrease didn’t start a downward trend. Preliminary estimates from the Department of Public Health suggest overdose deaths in 2019 will end up close to the 2018 number.
In 2018, health officials issued new prescribing guidance to more than 15,000 doctors in the Philadelphia region. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said his department sent staff into more than 1,000 offices to work directly with doctors to curb prescriptions and come up with alternative approaches to pain management. By most accounts, it’s working: According to city data, the number of opioid prescriptions decreased by 30% between early 2017 and early 2019.
Even so, Farley said, there are still too many prescription drugs floating around.
“We find that, despite the large amounts of publicity, there are still some doctors out there that don’t understand that their prescribing practices really aren’t good for their patients in the long run,” he said. “They were taught for years to prescribe more opioids.”
By Nina Feldman
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “The opioid crisis is both exacerbating the homelessness problem in Philadelphia and increasing the number of homeless people who die of drug overdoses. The health department is working with many other City agencies to reduce the number of people who become addicted and help those who are addicted – homeless or not – begin drug treatment.”
And most deaths in the city’s homeless population were due to overdoses, Hersh said. That’s a sea change from just a few years ago. Between 2009 and 2015, about 37% of deaths among the homeless population were from overdoses. Between 2016 and 2018, overdoses accounted for 59% of such deaths.
By Aubrey Whelan
The Philadelphia Health Department has compiled some grim statistics about homeless deaths in the city over the last decade.
From 2009 though 2018, the number of deaths among Philadelphia’s homeless population has tripled, largely because of an increase in the number of overdose deaths.
By Pat Loeb
According to preliminary data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the city shouldn’t expect a big reduction in the 2019 figures.
By Inquirer Editorial Board
We normalize so much in Philadelphia. Even the catastrophic death toll: More than 3,200 dead of overdoses in three years, 1,116 in 2018 alone. We’re on pace to match that rate of loss again this year.
By Mike Newall
“We are having a targeted strategy in the same way that Allegheny County has,” said Thomas Farley, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, adding that his colleagues pay more attention to the nation’s biggest cities than to Pittsburgh.
“But we, for decades, have become this big heroin market. We’re a distribution site for a very broad area. That drug availability is going to make it harder for us.”
By Aubrey Whelan
“We still don’t have a full, complete understanding of stimulant use on the ground. There seem to be all kinds of mixed messages flying around,” said Kendra Viner, the opioid surveillance program manager for Philadelphia’s Public Health Department. “There definitely seems to be a disconnect between what people think they’re buying and what’s found in their toxicology if they die, or their drugs are tested. There are a lot of really dangerous cutting agents on the scene.”
By Aubrey Whelan
“As the number of overdose deaths in Philadelphia dropped in 2018 from the 2017 watermark and naloxone became more prevalent in the community, we expect that the number of hospital admissions would go down; more people are surviving overdoses,” James Garrow, a spokesperson for Philadelphia’s health department, wrote in an email. “This is great news because it means that these folks have another chance to get into treatment.”
Still, he added, Philadelphia’s historically high overdose fatalities — 1,116 people died here in 2018, a rate higher than anywhere else in Pennsylvania — mean that it’s not surprising the city leads the state in hospitalizations.
By Aubrey Whelan
The City of Philadelphia, in response to an emergency that has taken the lives of thousands of Philadelphians, disrupted the lives of tens of thousands more, and affected the lives of each and every one of us, recognizes International Overdose Awareness Day. In honor of this day, and to save as many lives as possible, the Health Department will be holding a series of naloxone giveaway days in September. International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31st every year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.