As of July 1, 2019--the middle of the year--about 140 people had died of a drug overdose in Delaware.
As Delaware tries to move forward, the state is also looking back to determine some of the factors that surrounded the overdose deaths of 56 people in 2018.
Were they alone, or were they with someone? Had they overdosed before? What was the likelihood they had been in the prison system?
These are questions that have answers in the Delaware Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission's recently released report. Most of the 56 victims were men. Thirty-percent had been previously detained in the correctional system. About half had overdosed before and survived.
According to Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long, who as a state Senator sponsored legislation to create the panel, "the report emphasizes the tragedy of addiction and the devastation on families."
"We're working really hard [in cases] where when we have individuals who have perhaps overdosed more than once, that we get them the treatment when they need it and how they need it," Hall-Long said.
A total of nine recommendations are contained in the report, several of which the state is already attempting to implement and follow. They include expanding the availability of the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone and addressing special concerns such as insurance and coverage for people who leave the prison system and still face substance abuse challenges.
"Delaware grapples with addiction every day in hospitals, in courtrooms and at home," Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a written statement. "We see the cost of addiction on a daily basis in the Department of Justice, not only because of the epidemic's impact on the criminal justice system, but because it is a public health crisis that, on average, claims another life each day. As prosecutors, and as neighbors of the families and individuals devastated by this disease, we are committed to fighting the epidemic and to helping its victims find help."
The DOFRC is chaired by Dr. Rebecca Walker, who said its work" gives us an opportunity to support the fight against the opioid epidemic with evidence-based, data-driven recommendations."
"The findings of our investigations represent real opportunities for Delaware to educate the public and to prevent further tragedies through early intervention and a stronger continuum of treatment and care," Walker said in a statement. "I'm grateful to my colleagues for their contribution to this report, and I look forward to continuing the commission's critical role moving forward."
For addiction related information and resources:
800-652-2929 (New Castle County)
800-345-6785 (Kent County, Sussex County)