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PA Drug Overdose Deaths Up 37% during 2016. On Average, 13 Died Daily.

July 27, 2017

Released today, a new report from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Philadelphia Division, and the University of Pittsburgh shows that Pennsylvania’s epidemic of opioid and other drug-related overdose deaths continued unabated during 2016.

The report found that during 2016:

  • Pennsylvania’s drug-related overdose death rate increased 37 percent, from 3,376 during 2015 to 4,642 during 2016.
  • On average, 13 Pennsylvanians died daily from drug-related overdoses.
  • Nearly four times as many Pennsylvanians died due to causes related to drug overdoses as died in traffic accidents.
  • Pennsylvania’s overdose death rate is more than twice the national average.

Fentanyl, heroin, and related substances continued to be frequently identified drugs in post-mortem toxicology tests. During 2016, fentanyl and related substances were the most frequently identified drugs in toxicology tests results (52 percent of deaths), followed by heroin (45 percent).

Rural areas continued to face challenges with drug-related overdose deaths: 

  • Collectively, the average growth of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania was larger in rural counties (42%) than in urban counties (34%).
  • Of the top 20 counties where overdose deaths grew the most, 18 counties (90 percent) are rural. The percent increase of drug-related overdose deaths in these counties ranged from 57 to 300 percent. 

The report includes a wealth of county-specific information.

The DEA recognizes that the number of overdose-related deaths in Pennsylvania is a crisis. According to the report, education and prevention are key to addressing this epidemic. 

HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems are working with communities to address this epidemic. Many hospitals and health systems are implementing “warm handoffs”—connecting overdose survivors cared for in emergency rooms to treatment opportunities. 

In South Central Pennsylvania, hospitals and health systems are working with health care professionals across the care continuum and the regional community to address the opioid and heroin epidemic through awareness, education, and action. This South Central PA Opioid Awareness Coalition is also developing helpful guidance for the general public.

In addition to working with Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems, HAP continues to monitor state guidelines and federal legislation and share relevant information
 
For more information on this new report or the South Central PA Opioid Awareness Coalition, contact Phillip Burrell, HAP’s director, health market research. For more information about HAP’s work to combat the opioid crisis, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.
 

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