Department of Health Announces Release of Latest Annual OD Stat Report Reviewing Overdose Deaths in Philadelphia | Department of Public Health

PHILADELPHIA—The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announces the release of the latest version of the OD Stat report providing a comprehensive review of a selection of overdose deaths in the city of Philadelphia in hopes of identifying possible situations where there was possible to have interrupted the chain of events leading to a death. Based on this data, this report includes policies and
programmatic recommendations with the sole aim of reducing deaths from
unintentional overdose.

According to Dr Roy. Hoffman, Medical Director of the Mortality Review Program, “We expect OD Stat to provide the City of Philadelphia with a unique understanding and insight into the circumstances that can contribute to unintentional overdose deaths, which can then help our agencies focus their efforts to prevent such deaths.”

Every neighborhood in the city is being hit hard by an epidemic of opioid use and overdoses. In all racial and ethnic groups, the number of drug overdose deaths exceeds the number of homicide deaths. To provide useful insight into these deaths, this year’s report provides some notable hurdles to overcome.

  • From April 2020 to April 2021, there was a 29% increase in fatal overdoses nationwide, compared to an 8.7% increase in Philadelphia.
  • Fatal overdoses among black/non-Hispanic people continue to rise in Philadelphia. Stimulants were noted more frequently among the toxicology of black/non-Hispanic overdose decedents, meaning they may be more likely to unknowingly encounter fentanyl in the stimulant supply. Fentanyl can lead to an overdose for anyone, but people who don’t typically use fentanyl or other opioids and who may not be aware that fentanyl is in their medications are particularly at risk for an overdose. .
  • 8 of the 9 deceased OD Stats with cocaine in their toxicology were black/non-Hispanic.
  • Drug use occurs on a spectrum, and efforts have been made to review cases of individuals who represent the many ways people use drugs in Philadelphia. In 2021, 32% of deaths involved an opioid only, compared to 50% in 2020. 59% of deceased people reviewed in OD Stat had both an opioid and a stimulant in their toxicology.
  • 24% of deceased people examined in OD Stat used drugs recreationally and often sought out non-opioid substances.

Many people who use substances or have a use disorder are diagnosed with behavioral health issues and have experienced trauma. 53% of offspring examined in OD Stat have had suicidal thoughts. 47% of deceased people examined in OD Stat suffered childhood trauma. These are likely underestimates, as the team relies only on available data.

The OD Stat team is part of the Department of Health’s Substance Use and Harm Reduction Program. Their process involves two groups of people. The OD Stat employee group is made up of employees from the Department of Health and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services. This group reviews details of selected overdose deaths and consolidates information presented at quarterly meetings.

The larger OD Stat team attends quarterly meetings to hear the stories of those who have died and discuss areas of service improvement or missed opportunities that may have prevented the death. This team includes municipal leaders as well as non-municipal representatives from hospitals, community organizations, treatment providers and community members.

Every three months, this team surveys a sample of 4-5 Philadelphia residents who have died from drug overdoses to find out what could be done to prevent future deaths. They examine not only the circumstances of death, but also the victims’ interaction with municipal systems such as prisons, arrests, homeless services, drug treatment, behavioral health services, infectious disease screening and emergency medical services. They also receive data from community organizations, hospitals, as well as interviews with relatives of deceased persons. This information is then used to compile an anonymous summary of the individual’s life and circumstances of death.

The OD Stat 2022 report can be viewed at the following link:

Jacob L. Thornton