In Wake of Uptick in Overdose Deaths Statewide, DHSS Urges People in Active Use and Their Families to Seek out Treatment

NEW CASTLE (June 1, 2017) – With six suspected overdose deaths statewide since Monday and multiple overdoses within hours Tuesday in New Castle County, the Department of Health and Social Services is urging Delawareans suffering from addiction to reach out for a connection to treatment.

The suspected overdose deaths – one on Sunday, three on Monday and two on Wednesday – bring the total of suspected overdose deaths this year in Delaware to 94. Last year, 308 people died of overdoses in Delaware, up 35 percent from the 228 total deaths in 2015, according to the Division of Forensic Science. Paramedics and the Delaware State Police also responded to a number of overdoses in New Castle County on Tuesday in less than eight hours.

“This epidemic continues to impact families in every part of our state,” Governor John Carney said. “When people are ready for treatment, we need to have the resources and services ready for them. We cannot afford to turn away anyone.”

Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a family physician, urged people in active use or their families to call DHSS’ 24/7 Mobile Crisis Hotline to be connected to experienced crisis staff who can help them navigate the most appropriate treatment services. In New Castle County, call 1-800-652-2929. In Kent and Sussex counties, call 1-800-345-6785.

“Addiction is taking an incredible toll on individuals suffering from this disease,” Secretary Walker said. “It takes a toll on their families, as well, who are desperate to get their loved ones connected to treatment. As a Department, we have increased treatment services across the state, and will do more in the coming months. I urge individuals in active use to call our Mobile Crisis Hotline in order to take that first step toward recovery.”

In response to the addiction epidemic, the General Assembly has increased funding for the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health in order to add capacity to the public treatment system statewide. The increased funding has been used to:

• Open a second withdrawal management clinic in November 2015 in Harrington, joining one in New Castle County, near Elsmere. Both locations now offer new and expanded withdrawal management services.
• Expand residential treatment beds from one location to four locations in February 2016, with new beds open in Smyrna (men), Dover (one location for men; one for women) and Delaware City (women), increasing total capacity by 22 percent. These beds are available for people who have received withdrawal management services and are in need of residential treatment to further their recoveries. The changes increased the total number of residential treatment beds from 78 to 95, with all beds having a variable length of stay.
• Increase residential treatment beds for young people age 18 to 25, with 16 new beds expected to be online late this summer, bringing the total to 32 beds.
• Provide 16 beds for individuals suffering from significant co-occurring disorders (mental illness and addiction).
• Double the number of recovery house beds statewide, with 120 beds now available to aid individuals in making the transition back to their communities.
• Expand outpatient treatment services statewide to include a full continuum of support.
• Open a second Recovery Response Center in Newark, joining an existing center in Ellendale, to provide medical assessments of individuals in immediate crisis for addiction or mental illness.

Dave Humes, who lost his son, Greg, to an accidental overdose in 2012, is a board member of atTAcK addiction. The grassroots advocacy group has pushed for increased treatment services, ending the stigma associated with the chronic disease, and the expanded use of naloxone, the overdose-reversing prescription medication.

“This week we lost six more Delawareans unnecessarily to overdose,” Humes said. “We need to find new and creative ways in our prevention efforts. We have to extend our outreach to those Delawareans who are still in active use. When my son, Greg, relapsed, his use proved to be fatal. Every time a person uses, they run the risk of ending their life. The purity of the heroin and the fentanyl-laced heroin put lives at risk with each use. This is the public health crisis of the 21st century, 553,000 Americans lost to overdose.”
Humes and five other Delawareans are featured in new short videos on DHSS’ redesigned, a site for people seeking information and resources about addiction treatment, recovery or prevention. The improved website:
• Is easier to navigate to find detox, treatment, intervention, and recovery resources. Just click on “Get Help Now” on the home page.
• Can be translated into four languages (Spanish, Haitian Creole, French and Chinese) by clicking on Google translate in the top right corner.
• Is more mobile device-friendly.
• Provides updated screening tools and information for health care providers, including on the new Division of Professional Regulation prescribing regulations.
• Contains new videos integrated throughout the site in which Delawareans share their experiences with addiction, treatment, recovery, prevention and community response. The one- and two-minute testimonials feature individuals in long-term recovery, parents who have lost adult children to overdoses, a treatment provider, and a police officer.
In addition to supporting family members by using the resources on, loved ones of those struggling with addiction can get trained on the use of naloxone. For people in the community, naloxone is simple to administer, has proven to save lives and provides an opportunity for recovery to begin. To learn more about community naloxone training classes in Delaware:


The Department of Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of life of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.

DHSS Relaunches ‘Help Is Here’ Website with Accompanying Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Campaign

NEW CASTLE – The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) today launched an updated and significantly improved version of Delaware’s centralized online resource for addiction prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery information, The website is designed to assist people struggling with addiction, their families, the community, and medical providers.

The new version of “Help is Here” is easier to navigate, can be translated into four languages (Spanish, Haitian Creole, French, and Chinese), is more mobile-device friendly, and offers updated information for the community and medical providers. Its expanded video section features new and highly personal testimonials from individuals in long-term recovery, parents who have lost adult children to overdoses, a treatment provider, and a police officer.

Governor John Carney expressed his support for the website and for the role it can play in reducing the toll of addiction.

“Combating the addiction epidemic is a priority of my administration,” Governor Carney said. “Too many people are dying from this disease and too many families are suffering. As we work together to continue to build a system that better recognizes, prevents and treats addiction, Help is Here is a key tool.”

Delaware Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long, Division of Public Health (DPH) Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, and Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) Director Michael Barbieri made the announcement, which included a reveal and demonstration of the updated site.

“Prevention and intervention are key to battling addiction in our state,” said Lt. Gov. Hall-Long. “This is particularly true when it comes to our children. Stress, trauma, early exposure to drugs in the teen years, and early symptoms of a mental disorder can lead to addiction and mental illness. Making parents aware of and connecting them to supportive information through the ‘Help Is Here’ website is vital to preventing years of struggle with substance use.”

Children who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t get the information at home.

Delaware, like much of the country, is experiencing an addiction epidemic. In 2016, 308 people died from overdoses in Delaware, compared to 228 overdose deaths reported in 2015. Up to 80 percent of Delaware’s drug overdoses may involve one or more prescription drugs. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), eight out of 10 new heroin users first abused prescription painkillers.

A key focus of the updated site is providing additional resources for physicians and other medical providers, such as information on the new regulations for the safe prescribing of opiates released this April by the Delaware Department of State’s Division of Professional Regulation (DPR). The regulations establish standards for prescribing opioids safely for pain management. Opioids can be a powerful tool if prescribed and used carefully, but should never be the first line of defense to treat chronic pain.

“Addiction is a chronic disease with a complicated set of causes. Our goal with the revised website is to increase awareness and supportive information across the community,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “The website is the only one of its kind in the nation, one that seeks to address community needs and also provide guidance and information to medical providers. The refreshed site includes resources for DPR’s new regulations, and a helpful screening tool to aid providers in easily screening patients for substance use disorders as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

In addition to sharing information about where to receive treatment, the state is also focused on building additional public treatment services. In February 2016, DSAMH opened new residential treatment beds at four locations in Smyrna, Dover and Delaware City, increasing capacity by 22 percent. These beds are available for both men and women who have received withdrawal management services and are in need of residential treatment to further their recoveries. These changes increased DSAMH’s total number of residential treatment beds from 78 to 95, with all beds having a variable length of stay.

A statewide expansion of residential treatment beds for youth age 18-25 is expected to be online in late summer. This expansion will increase beds from 16 to 32.

DSAMH has 16 beds for individuals suffering from significant co-occurring disorders (mental illness and addiction). And, to support residential recovery services, the state has 120 recovery house beds statewide to aid individuals in their local communities.

“Being in treatment for an addiction can be hard, but recovery is achievable,” said Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Michael Barbieri. “Recovery is a journey with ups and downs. We want to provide a variety of treatment options to meet a person where they are and provide them with the level of care they need. There is no wrong door to enter to begin the recovery process.”

DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker also expressed her support for the greater outreach to the community through the website and accompanying media campaign.

“Addiction is a brain disease, not a character flaw,” said Secretary Walker, a family physician. “The first step toward recovery is seeking a treatment path that is right for the person in need. This website can help parents understand if a teen-age son or daughter is exhibiting signs of addiction and where to seek help if they are. And for those already in the throes of the disease, Help Is Here offers easy access to information about treatment and recovery services in Delaware and nearby states. The testimonial videos will help those impacted by this disease to understand they are not alone.” was first launched in October 2014.

To be connected to resources immediately, call the DHSS 24/7 Crisis Helpline at:

  • New Castle County: 800-652-2929
  • Kent and Sussex counties: 800-345-6785.

Help is Here will be updated throughout 2017, including information coming soon on how to prevent, recognize and treat substance exposure in infants, screen pregnant women for addiction and connect them to treatment sources, and significantly expand information for medical providers.

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

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.

DHSS and Delaware State Police Warn of Spike in Overdoses in Western Sussex County; Immediate Assistance Available at 911 or DHSS’ Crisis Helpline

NEW CASTLE (April 22, 2017) – In the wake of a significant increase in heroin overdoses in western Sussex County, including one that was fatal, from Thursday through early Saturday, health and law enforcement officials are warning users, families, treatment providers and health care professionals of the dangerous spike.

For users and families who want to be connected to treatment immediately, call the Department of Health and Social Services’ 24/7 Crisis Helpline at 1-800-345-6785 in Sussex and Kent counties, or 1-800-652-2929 in New Castle County. If individuals see someone overdosing, they should call 911. Under Delaware’s 911/Good Samaritan Law, people who call 911 to report an overdoses and the person in medical distress cannot be arrested for low-level drug crimes.
Sergeant Richard D. Bratz, director of the Public Information Office for the Delaware State Police reports that a significant spike of heroin overdoses has occurred over the past several days in Sussex County. The Sussex County Drug Unit is actively investigating and seeking information on any of the drug overdoses. The public is encouraged to call Sergeant M. Dawson of the Sussex County Drug Unit at 302-752-3815 with any information.


Michael Barbieri, director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, alerted treatment providers statewide of the surge in overdoses in western Sussex. Hospitals and urgent care centers were notified of the increase by the Division of Public Health’s Emergency Medical Services, which oversees the state’s paramedic service. EMS responded to seven reported overdoses in a 24-hour period beginning Thursday in the Seaford and Laurel areas. In several of the cases, paramedics used naloxone, the overdose-reversing medication, to save the individual before transporting each person to the hospital.
“This spike in overdoses is alarming,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a family physician and Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services. “Even one use of heroin or another opioid can end a life. For people in active use and their families, please convince your loved ones to seek treatment for their addiction or keep naloxone in your home. Addiction is a disease and treatment does work. Our staff at the DHSS Crisis Helpline will listen and they will connect you to treatment options.”


In 2016, 308 people died from overdoses in Delaware, almost triple the number who died in traffic accidents. In 2015, a total of 228 people died from overdoses in Delaware, with 222 overdoses deaths reported in 2014.


Prevention, treatment and recovery information and resources in Delaware and nearby states also are available on DHSS’ website. DHSS will initiate a community outreach campaign in May that will include an unveiling of the revamped website, materials for medical providers on prescribing pain medications, and information on how to screen patients and connect them with addiction treatment resources, as well as materials on preventing substance exposure in infants.




The Department of 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.

First Reports of Community Members Using Naloxone

DHSS Receives First Reports of Community Members Using Naloxone to Revive Loved Ones Who Overdosed

NEW CASTLE – The Department of Health and Social Services has received the first reports of people in Delaware overdosing on opiates and being revived by community members who administered the overdose-reversing medication naloxone themselves.

Individuals who participate in the state’s Syringe Exchange Program in Wilmington, coordinated by Brandywine Counseling, are receiving auto-injector naloxone units through a donation by kaléo, the Richmond, Va., company that manufactures the medication called Evzio. Participants are trained by Brandywine Counseling staff on how to use the naloxone.

“Heroin and the misuse of prescription painkillers are so dangerous that in order to connect people to treatment for their addiction, sometimes we must save their lives first,” DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf said. “The new community naloxone bill, which Governor Markell signed into law last summer, is giving people in Delaware the opportunity to save their loved ones’ lives. Our hope is that people in the throes of addiction will now embrace treatment for their disease and the opportunity for a lasting recovery.”

In June 2014, Gov. Markell signed into law a bill expanding the use of naloxone by members of the community who take a training class in how to administer it. Almost 300 people, including Secretary Landgraf, have been trained to use an intranasal spray version of naloxone and carry the medication with them to save the life of a loved one or friend in the event of an overdose.

Domenica Personti, Brandywine Counseling’s director of adolescent services and prevention, said in the first case happened on Aug. 30, when a Syringe Exchange Program client saved a friend’s life who had overdosed. The client was “so grateful to have been offered the training and medication in order to save her friend’s life,” Personti said. Brandywine Counseling refilled her naloxone prescription.

On Sept. 7, Personti said a second client of the Syringe Exchange Program used the auto-injector naloxone unit to revive her girlfriend after she overdosed. Both women were expected to come into Brandywine Counseling to be assessed for treatment services, Personti said.

“By expanding naloxone access, we have equipped individuals with a life-saving tool in response to the terrible outcome often associated with opiate use,” Personti said. “Because of this, two individuals were able to go home to their loved ones.”

In the wake of a growing number of overdose deaths, DHSS and atTAcK addiction, a grassroots advocacy group in Delaware, helped to facilitate the donation earlier this year of 2,000 naloxone units from kaléo. The donation went to addiction treatment centers like Brandywine Counseling, participating police departments and school nurses in Delaware’s high schools.

“atTAcK addiction is extremely grateful that our partnership with DHSS is saving lives,” said David Humes, one of the group’s founding members. “The Kristen L. Jackson and John M. Perkins Jr. 911 Good Samaritan Law and complementary expanded naloxone laws do save lives. We will continue to advocate for effective policy changes that will increase and expand treatment options for those suffering with substance use disorder. Where there is life, there is hope of recovery from the disease of addiction.”

Brandywine Counseling’s next community naloxone training class is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at Stubbs Elementary School, 110 N. Pine St., Wilmington. Subsequent sessions are at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at New Castle County Police Department Headquarters, 3601 N. DuPont Highway, New Castle; and at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at the Ocean View Police Department, 201 Central Ave., Ocean View.

In 2014, a total of 185 people died from suspected overdoses in Delaware, or about one person every other day. Many of those overdoses were the result of heroin or prescription painkillers, which can be reversed by administering naloxone. In addition to expanded use among police officers, community members and school nurses, Delaware paramedics also administer naloxone in overdose situations. In 2014, they administered it 1,244 times, reviving 668 people, according to the Division of Public Health. The antidote also is used in emergency rooms.

For more information, contact Jill Fredel, Director of Communications, (302) 255-9047 (office) or (302) 357-7498 (cell).


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.

Governor Markell Marks Next Stage in Fight against Addiction Epidemic

Details $4.45M in Spending Priorities for FY16

Harrington, DE – Responding to the need for increased addiction treatment and recovery services statewide in the face of an epidemic that claims a life from overdose every other day, Governor Markell joined Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf and other leaders today to detail the state’s priorities for the $4.45 million in new resources provided by the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

Speaking at the construction site for a new withdrawal management clinic in Harrington, Governor Markell said that facility exemplifies the state’s commitment to serve the thousands of Delawareans and their families affected by the state’s addiction epidemic. In 2014, there were 185 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware, or about one every other day. Across the country, Delaware ranked 10th for overdose deaths. Almost 10,000 Delaware adults sought public treatment in 2014, with about one-third of those adults indicating heroin as their primary drug at the time of admission.

“The addiction epidemic is straining our public system beyond its capacity, with many people turned away for services when they are ready for treatment, or being forced to wait for services or supports to open up for them,” said Governor Markell, who proposed additional resources to treat substance use disorders in his State of the State address and FY2016 budget proposal. “I am grateful these new resources to increase treatment capacity remained in the budget, and I applaud members of General Assembly for holding steadfast to a commitment to increase treatment and recovery services, especially in a challenging fiscal environment.”

The withdrawal management clinic, operated for the Department of Health and Social Services by Connections Community Support Programs, Inc., is expected to open within a month to serve people in need, especially those in Kent and Sussex counties. The state’s other withdrawal management clinic is in New Castle County. With $750,000 in funding, both clinics will match withdrawal services to the individual’s needs, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. Both programs will have:

  • 16 beds for clinically managed and medically monitored detoxification;
  • 12 23-hour slots to allow for stabilization and observation of an individual who might not need a medically or clinically monitored withdrawal program; and
  • Ambulatory withdrawal management services, which can serve 30 to 100 individuals for 30 days in an intensive outpatient setting.

Secretary Landgraf detailed the state’s efforts to fight addiction on three fronts: prevention and education; treatment and recovery; and criminal justice. She cited the training and increased use of the overdose-reversing medication naloxone among members of the community and law enforcement, the use of the Good Samaritan/911 Law to allow people to call in overdoses without risking arrest for minor drug offenses, and an ongoing underage and binge drinking prevention campaign.

“We know all too well that addiction is indeed a disease of epidemic proportion, one that does not discriminate and that takes a toll every day on Delaware families,” Secretary Landgraf said. “With the help of these new state resources, we will continue to embrace communities of recovery such as the one being built in Harrington.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe noted additional state spending in community treatment services will have a positive impact on the criminal justice system.

“For far too many individuals across our state, their addiction is a primary driver of destructive behavior that puts them into contact with the criminal justice system,” Commissioner Coupe said. “Increasing the number of treatment facilities in the community will ensure those who return to the community from a period of supervision by our department will have an opportunity to continue to participate in the addiction-related treatment they need to stay clean and sober, break their cycle of criminal behavior, and support their successful reentry to society.”

Mike Barbieri, the new director of DHSS’ Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH), detailed the priorities for the remainder of the $4.45 million in new funding. It would allow DSAMH to:

  • Expand the capacity of residential treatment programs throughout the state by opening new programs statewide. This will be done by reconfiguring the existing program at Delaware City and opening three 16-bed units across the state. When the changes are completed, the number of residential treatment beds is expected to increase from 78 to 95. ($800,000)
  • Double the number of sober living residential beds statewide from 60 to 120, allowing more individuals who are in the early stages of recovery to live in safe and secure housing that is free from drugs and alcohol. ($935,000)
  • Double the number of residential treatment beds across the state from 16 to 32 for young people age 18 to 25 who are beginning their recoveries from addiction to heroin or other opiates. ($1.15 million)
  • Fund start-up costs for residential treatment programs. ($815,000 in one-time funds)