Deaths Among Black Residents Increase by Nearly 20% In 2022, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health recorded 1,413 unintentional overdose deaths, marking an 11% increase from the previous high of 1,276 in 2021. The Health Department’s report highlights a disturbing trend of rising overdose fatalities among Black and Hispanic individuals, with an 87% increase among Black individuals and a 43% increase among Hispanic individuals from 2018 to 2022. This demographic shift aligns with national patterns. Opioids, mainly fentanyl, were involved in more than 80% of the recorded overdose deaths in 2022, while stimulants like cocaine were present in over 70% of cases.
Mayor Jim Kenney emphasized the urgent need for awareness and tools to combat the growing overdose epidemic in Philadelphia. He noted that the crisis is no longer solely an opioid epidemic but an overdose epidemic fueled by a contaminated drug supply. The Health Department, Opioid Response Unit, and various city agencies are actively working to address this evolving crisis, urging residents to understand the widespread risks and learn about available life-saving resources.
Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole expressed the heartbreaking nature of the crisis spreading across the city, affecting Black and Hispanic neighborhoods more significantly. The report reveals that the problem is not confined to a specific area, challenging the misconception that it is limited to Kensington. The risk extends beyond opioid-dependent individuals, impacting those using stimulants and occasional drug users. The Health Department is committed to collaborating with city partners to develop new strategies to counter this growing threat.
- Overdose deaths occurred in nearly every zip code in Philadelphia.
- Between 2018 and 2022, opioid and stimulant-involved overdose deaths among Black individuals more than doubled (146%), indicating opioids entering the stimulant-only user market.
- Hispanic individuals saw an 81% rise in opioid and stimulant-involved overdose deaths, coupled with a 3% decline in stimulant-only overdose deaths.
- Fentanyl was found in 96% of opioid-involved deaths, and cocaine was present in 88% of stimulant-involved deaths.
- The majority (57%) of overdose deaths involved both opioids and stimulants.
- The Health Department is actively engaged in various efforts, including a citywide overdose fatality review, extensive outreach, and harm reduction initiatives to address the rise in overdose deaths.
To tackle the crisis, the Health Department is conducting a citywide overdose fatality review to propose systemic changes for prevention. Outreach efforts include door-to-door canvassing, community engagement, a direct mail campaign, and collaboration with healthcare providers. Harm reduction initiatives involve distributing naloxone and test strips, providing training, and supporting transfers to treatment facilities. The Health Department encourages all Philadelphians to obtain, carry, and receive training to use naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication.
Resources for Assistance:
- For drug treatment referrals and education: Call (888) 545-2600 or visit https://dbhids.org/addiction-services/.
- Harm reduction and education with Prevention Point Philadelphia: Call (215) 634-5272 or visit https://www.ppponline.org.
- Information on obtaining and using naloxone: Visit https://www.phillynaloxone.com.
- Access treatment, even without insurance: Call (215) 546-1200 or (888) 545-2600, or visit https://dbhids.org/addiction-services/.
The full report on 2022 overdose deaths in Philadelphia is available on the Health Department’s website. The city plans to issue a press release on a new door-to-door canvassing program focused on raising awareness in communities experiencing rapid increases in overdose deaths.