“People are injecting more often, they need more syringes, and they don’t necessarily have enough, and because of that they’re reusing syringes, which increases their risk,” said Lia Pizzicato, a substance-use epidemiologist for the city health department. “And then because they’re injecting so much, it’s difficult to find a vein, and they’re more likely to miss. It’s a cycle.”
By Aubrey Whelan
“Without that increase in prescribing, we’d still be in the midst of a crisis,” said Kendra Viner, the manager of the city’s opioid surveillance program. “It might not be at the level it’s currently at.”
By Aubrey Whelan and Nathaniel Lash
“What I was really struck by was how big the drop was in Kensington — that’s the site of the Resilience Project, the site of the most drug activity. It’s the hot spot in the city,” said Tom Farley, the city’s health commissioner. “It’s an encouraging sign that we are really making progress in the area. But the rest of the city is following different trajectories.”
By Aubrey Whelan
Philadelphia’s Health Department is still giving out blue light bulbs to neighbors who ask for them, according to spokesperson Jim Garrow, but only until the supply runs out. After that, the city will reevaluate the strategy’s effectiveness, he said.
“The opioid epidemic is unprecedented,” Garrow said, “and the city is willing to try a variety of tactics to help support those with opioid use disorder.”
By Michaela Winberg
Eighteen regional hospitals in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, supported by the Health Care Improvement Foundation, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, and the Philadelphia, Chester, and Montgomery County health departments, have published a comprehensive report detailing community health issues that affect their patient populations.
“With the criteria that the institutions used to do the ratings, you think about what issues are having a big magnitude in terms of impacting a larger number of community members. And then you think about what’s actually on people’s minds, what they are feeling the burden of,” said Raynard Washington, the chief epidemiologist for Philadelphia’s health department.
The opioid crisis, he said, was at the top of both lists.
“It’s virtually impossible not to see it as a major health issue,” he said.
By Aubrey Whelan
The report focuses on communities and their needs, which meant going into neighborhoods and interviewing individuals served by the hospitals. Dr. Raynard Washington with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health says they learned it’s not easy for people to find the resources they need.
“A common theme is additional supports to help people navigate the very complex healthcare and health resource systems that we have,” Washington said.
By Hadas Kuznits
But something happens when civilians receive greater access to the life-saving drug: Its usage becomes harder to track. That’s because when more naloxone gets in the hands of private civilians, many of whom may be drug users themselves, they’re able to administer the drug — usually Narcan, the brand-name for the version given nasally — before paramedics arrive on the scene. And increasingly, health department officials say, paramedics aren’t being called at all. “People using drugs are doing this all the time and not reporting it,” says Allison Herens, the health department’s harm reduction coordinator, who performs naloxone trainings and tracks its use citywide.
By David Murrell
Mayoral spokesman Mike Dunn said Friday that Philadelphia does plan to follow up with pharmacies this summer to check compliance and see if more education is needed.
Philadelphia officials said a 2016 study found 40 percent of pharmacies in areas with the highest rates of heroin possession and distribution stocked naloxone, and fewer than half of surveyed pharmacists knew about the standing order. Pharmacy students also canvassed 85 pharmacies in 2017 to educate pharmacists and encourage them to stock naloxone.
Dunn said the city again checked with pharmacies early last year and found about 75 percent had naloxone in hand.
By Mark Scolforo