With 2020 just one week old, a grim statistic appears on the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services website: there have already been eight suspected overdose deaths in the state this year.

When the calendar turned at the end of 2019, 299 suspected overdose deaths were documented. That is slightly up from the same time of a year ago. However, once pending tests were completed, the number of overdose deaths for 2018 became 400.

A similar tally is expected once 2019 figures are finalized in the next few weeks, according to Delaware Public Health Secretary Dr. Karyl Rattay.

"We remain in the midst of a heartbreaking crisis," Rattay said.

Intervention, treatment and prevention initiatives are constantly being revised, implemented and analyzed. Deadly fentanyl has proved to be an especially serious challenge. It has shown up in cocaine, methamphetamine and other recreational drugs in addition to heroin. 

Rattay also said a top priority is to make the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone even more widely available - "Individuals who use drugs, friends, family members, health care providers."

"Getting more people successfully into treatment and recovery and preventing more addiction are also incredibly important pieces of our strategy," Rattay added.

Resources and information, including ways to find Naloxone and how to use it, are available at

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.