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 Sustained Funding for Overdose-Reversing Medication Naloxone

DOVER – Increasing access to the overdose-reversing medication naloxone has been a key priority for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) as state and local partners work together to develop solutions to address the opioid epidemic. In support of that, the Department’s Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing sustained funding for naloxone for first responder agencies statewide.

For the first time this year, $100,000 in state funding was built into DPH’s budget to fund the purchase of naloxone. Previously, funding for naloxone was piecemeal, using funds from DHSS’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and the Department of Justice’s State Law Enforcement Allocation Fund. In the absence of these funds, individual fire or police companies, or even county governments, scrambled for the resources to purchase naloxone.

To supplement the new state funds, DPH was just awarded $538,000 per year for the next four years to purchase naloxone and support other programs for first responders. The funds come from a grant awarded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“We continue to lose too many of our loved ones and neighbors to the addiction epidemic,” said Governor John Carney. “Naloxone can give people a second chance to get medical care and be connected to resources to treat their addiction. This funding will allow more Delaware first responders to carry the medication and as a result save more lives.”

Data from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s Division of Forensic Science showed that 345 people died in Delaware last year from an overdose. So far this year, 226 people have died of suspected overdoses.

“Our goal is for every first responder to be carrying naloxone,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, “from law enforcement, to campus security, from firefighters to ambulance crews. Previously, we were able to provide naloxone to law enforcement agencies on a limited basis. With both the state and federal funding now at our fingertips, we can greatly increase our distribution and saturation of this life-saving medication among agencies statewide.”

DPH’s Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) coordinates the Naloxone Administration Program. Originally the program, which began in 2014, was available only to law enforcement. Currently 30 law enforcement agencies have signed agreements with, and received training through, OEMS to administer the medication as part of the voluntary program. In 2017, first responders (EMS and police) administered 2,861 doses of naloxone, compared to 2,341 in 2016.

DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker was present in June as Governor Carney signed legislation to expand the definition of first responders, enabling more of them – including police, firefighters, EMS personnel, lifeguards, park rangers, constables and security guards – to administer the medication to an individual whom the responder believes is undergoing an opioid-related drug overdose. Now with the expanded legislation, Wilmington Fire Department is also participating in the Naloxone Administration Program, and Secretary Walker hopes more will soon follow.

“We are so grateful for the support of our federal delegation in providing additional dollars to help us put naloxone in the hands of as many people as possible,” said Secretary Walker. “Equipping more of our trained first responders with this medication to reverse the life-threatening overdose gives us another opportunity to connect that person to the resources that will help lead them to a life in recovery.”

The legislation also extends liability protection for those mentioned above who administer naloxone in good faith, and maintains that liability protection for the lay person who provides emergency care in good faith as well.

Community access to naloxone has increased dramatically since 2014 when legislation was enacted making it available to the public, and in 2017 when Governor 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. Now many pharmacies have the medication and more friends and family members of those struggling with addiction are taking advantage of the opportunity to become trained on how to administer it in an emergency.

David Humes, of atTAcK addiction, lost his son six years ago to a heroin overdose. Humes continues to work toward increasing access to naloxone in the community. atTAck Addiction was recently awarded a grant to do that from Highmark.

“In the aftermath of my son Greg’s death I met with the investigating detective,” said Humes. “His words to me were, ‘If we had a 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law or a naloxone law, your son might very well be alive today.’ In the ensuing days, I made a vow to Greg that I would somehow save a life in his name. The 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law and community access to naloxone seemed to be the vehicle to honor that vow.”

Humes continued, “By expanding access to naloxone as widely as possible more lives will be saved. Thanks to the federal grant, countless lives will be saved over the next four years. atTAcK addiction is grateful to Governor Carney for including the initial funding in this year’s budget, and to DPH and OEMS for their work in getting this grant. Hopefully the state will get additional federal grants to further fund community access to this life saving medication.”

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.

Information on community training of naloxone, along with resources regarding prevention, treatment and recovery, are available on HelpIsHereDE.com.

First responder agencies who have questions about how to join the Naloxone Administration Program can contact the DPH Office of Emergency Medical Services at 302-233-1350.

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.


Public Health and CVS Health Make Overdose-Reversal Drug Available Without Prescription at DE CVS Pharmacies

Two boxes of Naloxone above the Help Is Here signDOVER — The Delaware Division of Public Health and CVS Health announced today that the opioid overdose-reversal medication naloxone is now available without an individual prescription at all of the 20 CVS Pharmacy locations in Delaware, including those located inside Target stores. CVS pharmacists will be able to dispense naloxone to patients without an individual prescription under a statewide standing order issued by the Division of Public Health (DPH).

“By making naloxone available to the public without a prescription, CVS Health has taken an important step in helping us combat the opioid epidemic here in Delaware,” said Governor John Carney. “Naloxone can give people a second chance to get medical care and be connected to resources to treat their addiction. We greatly appreciate their partnership.”

“Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by expanding access to this medication in our pharmacies in Delaware we can help save lives,” said Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Services at CVS Pharmacy. “CVS Health is dedicated to helping the communities we serve address and prevent prescription drug abuse and we are expanding access to naloxone to give more people a chance to get the help they need for recovery.”

In July, Governor Carney signed Senate Bill 48, which expanded community access to naloxone by ensuring pharmacists had the same legal protections as doctors, peace officers and good Samaritans. Pharmacists can now dispense the medicine responsibly without potential legal, criminal, or disciplinary actions due to injuries or death sustained in connection with dispensing the drug. Naloxone will be available at the pharmacy counter in participating pharmacies to anyone who is educated on its appropriate use and signs an acknowledgement form. DPH hopes that this measure, in combination with a revised standing order allowing pharmacists to dispense naloxone nasal spray, will increase access for those concerned about someone at risk of an overdose.

“Our first priority is to save lives, and expanding access to this overdose-reversing medication through local pharmacies gives more people in the community the opportunity to help us do that,” said Dr. Rattay. “We see no signs of the opioid epidemic slowing and we need all the tools at our disposal to turn the tide.”

Overdose deaths in Delaware climbed from 172 in 2012 to 228 in 2015, and then jumped to 308 deaths in 2016. There have been approximately 190 suspected drug overdose deaths to date in 2017. First responders administered the life-saving medication naloxone more than 1,535 times in 2016 and 1,280 times in the first half of 2017.

“Addiction is a chronic disease,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). “As we expand access, we also need to connect Delawareans suffering from addiction to comprehensive and person-centered treatment services so they can begin their recovery.”

For more information about how to access naloxone at the pharmacy and to receive training on how to use it, visit HelpisHereDE.com/Get-Help/Overdose-Response. HelpIsHere.com is DHSS’ one-stop clearinghouse website for information on prevention, treatment and recovery resources in Delaware, and learning about the signs of addiction.

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.

“ ‘If we had a 911 Good Samaritan law or Narcan law, your son might very well be alive today.’ Those were the words of the detective investigating my son, Greg’s, accidental heroin overdose,” said David Humes, board member of atTAcK addiction. “I’ve lived with those words every day for over five years. With naloxone now being made available over-the-counter, other loved ones won’t have to live with those words. Greater access to naloxone means more lives will be saved. More people will get a second chance.”

For a list of permanent drug collection sites to safely dispose of unused prescription medication, visit permanent collection sites, visit DPH at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/hsp/hhdrugtakeback.html.

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.


Turn in Unused and Expired Medications on Drug Take-Back Day: October 28, 2017

a picture of a pill bottle with pills spilling out of it
Courtesy: Thinkstock

DOVER – With hundreds of lives being lost to drug overdoses each year in our state, Delaware will hold a Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, October 28, 2017, to help reduce the risk of prescription medications being diverted for misuse. Delawareans can discard their expired or unused medications at 22 locations statewide between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Social Service (DHSS), the twice-a-year event has resulted in more than 70,000 pounds of medication being collected in 14 events. Properly discarding unused medications reduces the risk of addiction, keeps prescription medications out of the hands of people who may abuse them, helps prevent drug overdoses and protects groundwater.

“With the recent suspected overdose deaths in Kent County, people across the state are wondering what they can do to reduce the impact of addiction,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. “One concrete thing that everyone can do is to use Drug Take-Back Day as an opportunity to turn in your expired or unused medications. Tragically, in more than 80 percent of the 308 fatal overdoses in Delaware last year, the presence of one or more prescription drugs was detected.” National studies show that almost two-thirds of people who misuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family, including by raiding medicine cabinets, purses and drawers.

As of Oct. 18, 2017, there have been 180 suspected drug overdose deaths in Delaware. In 2016, 308 people died from drug overdoses, compared to 228 in 2015 and 222 in 2014.

In addition to the 22 participating sites in Drug Take-Back Day activities, there are also 21 permanent medicine drop-off locations across the state available year-round. In April, Walgreens became the first private Delaware retailer to install safe medicine disposal boxes. Six of Delaware’s permanent drop-off sites are in Walgreens pharmacies. The remaining 15 are located in local law enforcement agencies.

“Drug Take-Back Day is an important day to drop off medications, but we want people to be aware that they can safely dispose of unused and expired medications all year round,” said Division of Public Health (DPH) Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “The permanent locations are an important tool in our fight against addiction, along with providing access to the drug overdose-reversing medication naloxone and getting those struggling with addiction into treatment.”

Delawareans seeking help for drug addiction, medical providers seeking information on patient education and treatment resources, or individuals searching for information about naloxone training classes and how to use the medicine, can visit www.HelpIsHereDE.com. The website, Delaware’s one-stop-shopping resource for information about education, prevention and treatment options for addiction, also features short testimonial videos from Delawareans in long-term recovery, parents who lost adult children to overdoses, a treatment provider and a police officer.

On Drug Take-Back Day, drugs for disposal must be in a container such as a pill bottle, box, blister pack, or zipped plastic bag, with personal information removed. Liquid medications must be in their original containers. Needles, aerosols, biohazard materials, medical equipment, and batteries will not be accepted.

For more details and a list of permanent collection sites, visit DPH at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/hsp/hhdrugtakeback.html or 302-744-4546, ext. 4; and the DEA at https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1.

Delaware’s Drug Take-Back Day sites for Oct. 28, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. are:

New Castle County
Christiana Care Surgical Center, 4755 Ogletown Stanton Road, Newark, DE 19718
Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, 801 Shipyard Drive, Wilmington, DE 19801
Delaware City Police Department, 407 Clinton St., Delaware City, DE 19706
Delaware State Police Troop 2, 100 La Grange Ave., Newark, DE 19702
Middletown Police Department, 130 Hampden Road, Middletown, DE 19709
New Castle County Airport, 151 N. DuPont Highway, New Castle, DE 19720
New Castle County Police Department, 3601 N. DuPont Highway, New Castle, DE 19720
Newark Police Department, 220 South Main St., Newark, DE 19711 (permanent collection site)
Wilmington VA Medical Center, 1601 Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington, DE 19805

Kent County
Atlantic Apothecary, 103. S. Dupont Blvd., Suite 2, Smyrna, DE 19977
Camden Police Department, 1783 Friends Way, Camden, DE 19934
Cheswold Police Department, 691 Main St., Cheswold, DE 19936
Delaware State Police Troop 3, 3759 S. State St., Camden, DE 19934
Felton Police Department, 24 East Sewell St., Felton, DE 19943 (permanent collection site)
Milford Police Department, 400 N.E. Front St., Milford, DE 19963 (permanent collection site)

Sussex County
City of Lewes Board of Public Works, 129 Schley Ave., Lewes, DE 19958
Dagsboro Police Department, 33134 Main St., Dagsboro, DE 19939
Delaware State Police Troop 4, 23652 Shortly Road, Georgetown, DE 19947
Delaware State Police Troop 7, 18006 Coastal Highway, Lewes, DE 19958
Laurel Police Department, 205 Mechanic St., Laurel, DE 19956 (permanent collection site)
Milton Police Department, 101 Federal St., Milton, DE 19968
Ocean View Police Department, 201 Central Ave., Ocean View, DE 19970 (permanent collection site)

For further information on addiction recognition, prevention and treatment, visit www.helpisherede.com.

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.