Pennsylvania public officials worry 2020 worst year on record for fatal drug overdoses | News, Sports, Jobs


Drug overdose deaths in 2020 might eclipse Pennsylvania’s peak recorded simply three years prior, public officers mentioned.

Division of Drug and Alcohol Applications Secretary Jennifer Smith made the admission throughout a gathering with the Middle for Rural Pennsylvania that mentioned the intersection of the state’s opioid disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s fairly horrifying that we’re seeing these numbers head again up once more,” Smith mentioned.

About 5,400 residents died from a drug overdose in 2017, or about 14 individuals each single day. It was the deadliest yr on report for the state, and the speed had greater than doubled since 2012.

In 2019, that quantity declined to simply over 4,400. The 2020 tally sits at 3,954 — however this determine doesn’t embody months price of knowledge and will not turn into remaining till the top of 2021, Smith cautioned.

Climbing charges of poverty, unemployment and social isolation induced by the pandemic underpin the dramatic rise, she mentioned. The federal Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention mentioned 81,000 Individuals died from a drug overdose final yr, the best quantity on report.

Thirty-five out of 48 of Pennsylvania’s rural counties likewise noticed a rise in emergency division visits associated to opioid overdoses, state knowledge exhibits.

“We had been right down to 11 deaths per day, however we’re approach as much as round 13 now,” Smith mentioned. “And we nonetheless don’t have all of the 2020 knowledge but.”

Lawyer Common Josh Shapiro informed the middle that the agricultural areas of the state face broader remedy entry challenges unparalleled in city areas. Many lack excessive velocity web and reside an hour or extra from a supplier. He urged lawmakers to take a position more cash into drug and alcohol packages and improve insurance coverage parity to make sure broader entry to telemedicine, medicine help and different types of remedy.

“Nobody needs to be denied habit or psychological well being remedy by their insurance coverage firm, or compelled to leap by way of hoops that don’t exist for bodily well being remedy,” he mentioned. “Once more, drug habit is a illness, not against the law, and insurance coverage firms want to begin treating it like some other illness.”

Smith advocated towards any additional rules on remedy suppliers, saying “we simply can’t have that going ahead.”

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