Delaware Officials Issue Warning after 6 Suspected Overdose Deaths During Holiday Weekend

NEW CASTLE (Sept. 3, 2019) – Health and public safety officials are urging people in active use of heroin or other opioids and their families to seek immediate treatment and to acquire the overdose-reversing medication naloxone in the wake of six suspected overdose deaths, including four in Sussex County, during the holiday weekend.
The six suspected overdose deaths happened in Sussex and New Castle counties between Friday, Aug. 30, and Sunday, Sept. 1, the Division of Forensic Science reported. Preliminary data show that first responders in Sussex County – police, fire and EMS – responded to 25 suspected overdose incidents between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, a substantial increase over a typical four-day period.
The five deaths from suspected overdoses on Aug. 30-31 brought the monthly total for August to 33 deaths. As of today, Sept. 3, the Division of Forensic Science has reported a total of 194 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware this year. There is always a lag in terms of both toxicology analyses and death determinations. In 2018, there were 400 overdose deaths across the state, an increase of 16 percent from the 2017 total of 345 deaths.
“Until the Division of Forensic Science determines the particular chemical make-up of the substances involved in these deaths, it is critical that people be aware of the dangers,” said Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “Five of these deaths happened at residences, so it’s important that people have naloxone in their homes if they know or suspect their loved one is using opioids. If you see someone overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately, begin rescue breathing and administer naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and save the person in distress.”
“Naloxone saves lives,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We urge anyone who needs access to naloxone to connect with Brandywine Counseling & Community Services, which operates the syringe services program for the Division of Public Health or go to a participating pharmacy to buy the overdose-reversing medication. We also urge Delawareans to download OpiRescue Delaware, a new smartphone app that provides lifesaving step-by-step instructions on how to respond to an overdose, including administration of naloxone.” For more information, go to HelpIsHereDE.com, and click on the overdose prevention tab.
In 2018, first responders administered 3,728 doses of naloxone, compared with 2,861 doses in 2017, a 30 percent increase.
Elizabeth Romero, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH), urged individuals in active substance use to see a medical provider immediately, come to a DSAMH Bridge Clinic in Sussex or New Castle counties, or call DHSS’ 24/7 Crisis Services Helpline to be connected to trained crisis professionals who can discuss treatment options.
The Sussex County Bridge Clinic, in the Thurman Adams State Service Center, 546 S. Bedford St., Georgetown, is open from 8:30 a.m.to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 302-515-3310. The New Castle County Bridge Clinic, 14 Central Ave. (just off U.S. 13) near New Castle, is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 302-255-1650. The Kent County Bridge Clinic is expected to open this fall.
In Kent and Sussex counties, the DSAMH Crisis Helpline number is 1-800-345-6785. In New Castle County, the number is 1-800-652-2929. Individuals and families also can visit DHSS’ website, www.HelpIsHereDE.com, to find addiction treatment and recovery services in Delaware and nearby states.
Romero encouraged anyone who is using or suffering from addiction to call for help, see a medical provider, or ask a police officer or another first responder for help. “Too many times, our police officers, EMTs and other first responders see first-hand the dangers of overdoses,” she said. “Our first priority is to save lives.”
Under Delaware’s 911/Good Samaritan Law, people who call 9-1-1 to report an overdose and the person in medical distress cannot be arrested for low-level drug crimes.
In 2018, the Division of Forensic Science confirmed the presence of fentanyl in 296 of the 400 total fatal overdoses, a 41 percent increase over 2017. Fentanyl is a synthetic pain reliever that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin.
Drug dealers sell fentanyl in a variety of ways, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Dealers sell pure fentanyl in white powder form to users who often assume they are buying heroin. They lace cocaine or heroin with fentanyl. And they press fentanyl into pills and pass them off as Oxycodone.
When users ingest fentanyl or a drug laced with fentanyl, it affects their central nervous system and brain. Because it is such a powerful opioid, users often have trouble breathing or can stop breathing as the drug sedates them. If someone is too drowsy to answer questions, is having difficulty breathing, or appears to be so asleep they cannot be awakened, call 9-1-1 immediately, start rescue breathing and administer naloxone if you have it at home.


DPH Announces Two Naloxone Training, Distribution Events in New Castle County

NEW CASTLE (March 28, 2019) – As part of its Community Naloxone Distribution initiative, the Division of Public Health (DPH) will hold two additional community naloxone distribution events in New Castle County next week. This initiative is part of a multi-pronged approach to address the opioid crisis and reduce the number of individuals dying from drug overdoses in Delaware.

In conjunction with National Public Health Week (April 1 through 7, 2019), DPH will distribute free naloxone kits to members of the general public during the following times:

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.,
    Springer Building Gymnasium, DHSS Herman Holloway Campus
    1901 N. Dupont Highway, New Castle, DE 19720
  • Saturday, April 6, 2019, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
    Porter State Service Center509 West 8th St., Wilmington, DE 19801

Individuals are encouraged to stop by at any time during either event. Training takes approximately 15 minutes. Each naloxone kit will contain two doses of naloxone, and members of the community who attend these events will receive one-on-one training on how to administer the overdose-reversing medication.

“This training is so important that we wanted to have an event on our main campus that would be open not only to the public, but to state employees as well,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). “We all can play a role in reducing harm among people suffering from substance use disorder and, potentially, in saving a life. I urge people to stop by either event to get trained on how to use naloxone.” Secretary Walker, a board-certified family physician, will do the training at the Holloway Campus event and receive a naloxone kit.

The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) also will have representatives on hand to answer any questions about access to treatment for those struggling with substance use disorder.

About 80 percent of all overdoses happen in a private residence – whether it’s the home of the person who overdosed or someone else’s – which is why DPH is encouraging friends, family members, and those struggling with opioid addiction to have naloxone on hand. If family or friends of someone overdosing have naloxone immediately accessible, it can mean the difference between life or death for that person.

Within three to five minutes after administration, naloxone can counteract the life-threatening respiratory depression of an opioid-related overdose and stabilize a person’s breathing, which buys time for emergency medical help to arrive. DPH recommends calling 9-1-1 immediately if you find someone in the midst of a suspected overdose, starting rescue breathing, and then administering naloxone. Naloxone is not a replacement for emergency medical care and seeking immediate help and follow-up care is still vital.

Preliminary estimates for 2018 indicate 419 overdose deaths across the state, an increase of 21 percent from the 2017 total of 345 deaths, according to the Division of Forensic Science. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Delaware number six in the nation for overdose mortality rate in 2017.

In 2018, first responders administered 3,728 doses of naloxone, compared to 2,861 in 2017, a 30 percent increase.

Funding for the Community Naloxone Distribution Initiative comes from state funding built into DPH’s budget for the first time in state fiscal year 2019, thanks to the advocacy of Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long and the Behavioral Health Consortium. In October, DPH also announced the agency was awarded federal funds to support the purchase of naloxone and other programs for first responders.

Community access to naloxone has increased significantly since 2014 when legislation was enacted making it available to the public. In 2017, Governor John Carney signed additional legislation ensuring pharmacists had the same legal protections as doctors, peace officers and good Samaritans when dispensing the medicine without a prescription.

Information on community training and pharmacy access to naloxone, along with resources regarding prevention, treatment and recovery are available at https://www.helpisherede.com/Get-Help/Overdose-Prevention.


Seek Treatment, Access to Naloxone: Three Suspected Heroin Overdose Deaths in Sussex Co. Involving Same Packet Stamp

Naloxone Campaign Logo 2019
Naloxone Campaign Logo 2019

NEW CASTLE (March 13, 2019) – Health and public safety officials are urging people in active use of heroin or other opioids and their families to seek immediate treatment and acquire the overdose-reversing medication naloxone on hand in the wake of three suspected heroin overdose deaths in five days in Sussex County involving the same packet stamp.

Through death investigations, the Division of Forensic Science identified the same stamp on packets that are suspected of being used by the three individuals or were found at the scenes of their deaths. The division is doing toxicology testing of the substances involved. The stamp is not being identified to prevent people in active use from seeking it.

The three suspected overdose deaths happened in Sussex County between March 9 and March 13, the Division of Forensic Science staff reported. As of today, March 13, the Division of Forensic Science has reported a total of 50 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware this year. Preliminary estimates for 2018 indicate 419 overdose deaths across the state, an increase of 21 percent from the 2017 total of 345 deaths.

“While the Division of Forensic Science determines the particular chemical make-up of the substances involved in these deaths, it is critical that people be aware of the dangers,” Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker said. “If you have a loved one in active use, please have naloxone in your home. If you see someone overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately, begin rescue breathing and administer naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and save the person in distress.”

“Naloxone saves lives,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “With specific heroin packets appearing to be extremely dangerous, we urge anyone who needs access to naloxone to connect with Brandywine Counseling & Community Services, which operates the syringe services program for the Division of Public Health, attend a Community Naloxone Training class provided by Brandywine Counseling, come to one of the Division of Public Health’s free naloxone distributions or go to a participating pharmacy to buy the overdose-reversing medication. We also urge Delawareans to download OpiRescue Delaware, a new smartphone app that provides lifesaving step-by-step instructions on how to administer naloxone.” For more information, go to www.HelpIsHereDE.com and click on the overdose prevention tab.

In 2018, first responders administered 3,728 doses of naloxone, compared with 2,861 doses in 2017, a 30 percent increase.

Elizabeth Romero, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, urged individuals in active substance use to see a medical provider immediately or call DHSS’ 24/7 Crisis Services Hotline to be connected to trained crisis professionals who can discuss treatment options. In New Castle County, the number is 1-800-652-2929. In Kent and Sussex counties, the number is 1-800-345-6785. Individuals and families also can visit DHSS’ website, www.HelpIsHereDE.com, to find addiction treatment and recovery services in Delaware and nearby states.

Romero encouraged anyone who is using or suffering from addiction to call for help, see a medical provider, or to ask a police officer or another first responder for help. “Too many times, our police officers and other first responders see first-hand the dangers of fentanyl-related overdoses,” she said. “Our first priority is to save lives.”

Under Delaware’s 911/Good Samaritan Law, people who call 9-1-1 to report an overdose and the person in medical distress cannot be arrested for low-level drug crimes.

In 2017, the Division of Forensic Science (DFS) confirmed the presence of fentanyl in 210 of the 345 total fatal overdoses. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. In 2016, fentanyl was confirmed in 109 of the 308 total overdose deaths. The 2018 statistics are expected to be released later this year.

Drug dealers sell fentanyl in a variety of ways, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Dealers sell pure fentanyl in white powder form to users who assume they are buying heroin. They lace cocaine or heroin with fentanyl. And they press fentanyl into pills and pass them off as OxyContin.

When a user ingests fentanyl or a drug laced with fentanyl, it affects the central nervous system and brain. Because it is such a powerful opioid, users often have trouble breathing or can stop breathing as the drug sedates them. If someone is too drowsy to answer questions, is having difficulty breathing, or appears to be so asleep they cannot be awakened, call 9-1-1 immediately, start rescue breathing and administer naloxone if you have it at home.


DPH Launches Smartphone App Featuring Lifesaving Instructions to Reverse an Opioid Overdose

DOVER – As part of its multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid crisis and reducing the number of individuals dying from drug overdoses in Delaware, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing the launch of a new smartphone app that provides lifesaving step-by-step instructions on how to use naloxone during an opioid overdose.

OpiRescue Delaware is a free, state-supported app available for download on all Android and Apple devices. The app contains detailed information on how to recognize signs of an overdose, and includes animations on how to provide rescue breathing and administer naloxone, an overdose-reversing medication. Additionally, individuals can use the app to find the nearest available pharmacy carrying naloxone, which can be purchased without a prescription.

The app also includes an easy-to-navigate tab that links people to the state’s HelpIsHereDE.com website, which provides prevention, treatment and recovery resources for those struggling with addiction.

“About 80 percent of all overdoses happen in a private residence, whether it’s their own or someone else’s, which is why we are strongly encouraging friends, family members, and those struggling with opioid addiction not only to have naloxone on hand, but also to download this app, which will walk individuals through the steps of administering the medication and potentially save a life,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.

Within three to five minutes after administration, naloxone can counteract the life-threatening respiratory depression of an opioid-related overdose and stabilize a person’s breathing, buying time for emergency medical help to arrive. DPH recommends calling 9-1-1 immediately if you find someone in the midst of a suspected overdose, starting rescue breathing, and then administering naloxone. Naloxone is not a replacement for emergency medical care and seeking immediate help and follow-up care is still vital.

There were at least 291 deaths last year in Delaware from suspected overdoses, according to the state’s Division of Forensic Science (DFS). Tragically, the final number is expected to exceed 400 after all toxicology screens are finished and final death determinations are made on outstanding cases by DFS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Delaware number six in the nation for overdose mortality rate in 2017.

In 2018, first responders administered 3,728 doses of naloxone, compared to 2,861 in 2017, a 30 percent increase. The app will, for the first time, allow community members to report their opioid overdose rescue, which will provide state health officials with additional information on how naloxone is used in the community. No personal information will be collected as part of this process.

Community access to naloxone has increased significantly since 2014 when legislation was enacted making it available to the public. In 2017, Governor John Carney signed additional legislation ensuring pharmacists had the same legal protections as doctors, peace officers and good Samaritans when dispensing the medicine without a prescription.

To download the OpiRescue Delaware app, visit your mobile device app store or https://www.helpisherede.com/Get-Help/OpiRescue-App. Information on community training and pharmacy access to naloxone can be found at https://www.helpisherede.com/Get-Help/Overdose-Prevention.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


Delaware Health Officials Issue Warning after 2 Deaths Involve Same Stamp on Packets of Heroin

Secretary Kara Odom Walker participates in a press conference about the opioid epidemic in Delaware.

NEW CASTLE (May 28, 2018) – Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker is warning people in active substance use in Delaware that two people have died from suspected overdoses in a 24-hour period that involve heroin packets with the same stamp. DHSS is not identifying the stamp so people will not seek out the drug.

“If you are in active use, we urge you to seek treatment immediately,” Secretary Walker said. “Call DHSS’ 24/7 Crisis Hotline or seek help at the nearest police department, hospital or medical provider. If you continue to use substances, have the overdose-reversing medication naloxone with you because the risk for death is increased. Our first priority is to reduce harm and to save your life or the lives of others.”

By calling DHSS’ 24/7 Crisis Services Hotline, individuals in active use or their loved ones will be connected to trained crisis professionals who can discuss treatment options. In Kent and Sussex counties, the number is 1-800-345-6785. In New Castle County, the number is 1-800-652-2929. Individuals and families also can visit DHSS’ website, www.HelpIsHereDE.com, to find addiction treatment and recovery services in Delaware or nearby states.

In Delaware, there have been 106 deaths from suspected overdoses through May 27 of this year, including three since Friday, May 25, according to preliminary reports from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s Division of Forensic Science. The two deaths involving the same stamp occurred Thursday, May 24, and Friday, May 25. Of the 106 total deaths for 2018, 71 have been in New Castle County, 22 in Sussex County and 13 in Kent County, The youngest person who died was 19; the oldest 74.

Elizabeth Romero, director of DHSS’ Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, encouraged individuals in Delaware to call 911 if they believe someone is overdosing. Under Delaware’s 911/Good Samaritan Law, people who call 911 to report an overdose and the person in medical distress cannot be arrested for low-level drug crimes.

“When someone overdoses from an opioid, naloxone must be administered within minutes,” Romero said. “That’s why it’s so important for people to call 911 immediately. We also urge people to have naloxone on hand if they have a loved one suffering from addiction. Naloxone saves lives.”

If a user has ingested fentanyl or a drug laced with fentanyl, time is critical because the powerful opioid quickly affects the central nervous system and the brain. Users often have trouble breathing or can stop breathing as the drug sedates them. If someone is too drowsy to answer questions, is having difficulty breathing, or appears to be so asleep they cannot be awakened, call 911 immediately and administer naloxone if you have the medication.

Naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication carried in Delaware by community members, paramedics and some police officers, can be administered in overdoses involving fentanyl. Because fentanyl is more potent than heroin or opioid painkillers, multiple doses of naloxone may be needed to reverse an overdose. In 2017, Delaware paramedics and police officers administered naloxone 2,714 times in suspected overdose situations to a total of 1,906 patients.

Overdose deaths continue to increase in Delaware. In 2017, 345 people died from overdoses, up 12 percent from the 308 people who died in 2016, according to the Division of Forensic Science. Of the 345 overdose deaths last year, 210 – or about six out of 10 – involved fentanyl. That number was almost double the 109 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.