Delaware reports sharp increase in emergency room visits for opioid overdoses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released data from hospital emergency rooms that show substantial increases in opioid overdose visit numbers nationwide, including here in Delaware.

On Tuesday, the CDC released their Vital Signs report, which examined emergency room visits data in 45 states, visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 30 percent nationwide from July 2016 to September 2017.

Of the 16 states participating in enhanced data surveillance, Delaware reported the second-highest percent change for suspected opioid overdose emergency room visits during that time period of (105%).

Of the 2,075 suspected overdose-related emergency room visits, 1,529 (74%) were in New Castle County, 355 (17%) in Sussex County and 191 (9%) in Kent County.

Most significantly, the number of emergency room overdose visits increased most sharply and more than doubled in New Castle County from 189 in the third quarter of 2016 to 464 in the third quarter of 2017.

The report did not include the state rates per 100,000 overdose-related deaths, which is a more stable measure of increases and decreases over time, according to the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH).

“Emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses, and clearly we are concerned about the increases here in Delaware,” said Division of Public Health Director, Dr. Karyl Rattay.

“The report’s findings highlight the need for enhanced prevention and treatment efforts in emergency departments, including offering overdose prevention education, naloxone and related training for patients, family members, and friends, initiating buprenorphine in the emergency department and linking patients to treatment and services in the community as needed.”

The Division of Public Health, already recognizing the important role that not only emergency departments, but also first responders have to play in battling the state’s opioid epidemic, is holding the Acute Overdose Management System of Care Forum on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at Delaware Technical Community College in Dover.

DPH hopes to use the System of Care approach that it has used with its Trauma, Pediatric and Stroke programs to address opioid overdoses in the state that focuses on an organized approach to patient management throughout the continuum of care statewide.

The plan involves coordination of care from pre-hospital transport through acute-care discharge, multidisciplinary involvement from dispatch, prehospital, hospitals, medical specialists, prevention, the use of documenting system data resulting in improved communication and collaboration among stakeholders to ensure patients receive the same quality of care no matter where in the state they enter the system.

“Partnerships, organized into a System of Care, will strengthen and expand efforts, providing better patient experience and outcome system-wide,” Dr. Rattay said. “We will also use the opportunity to encourage emergency responders at all levels to provide all-important and extremely critical connections to treatment resources for patients in crisis.”

Data from 16 states in the CDC’s Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) Program were analyzed for the report, showing quarterly trends by state and rural/urban differences from July 2016 through September 2017.

Overall, opioid overdose emergency room visits increased 35 percent in the 16 states hit hard by the epidemic.

To learn more about the signs of addiction, prevention and treatment resources, and the availability of naloxone training in the community,  visit

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