The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 6 released data from emergency departments showing substantial increases in opioid overdose numbers nationwide, including in Delaware.
Visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 30 percent nationwide from July 2016 to September 2017, according to the CDC’s Vital Signs report, which examined ED visit data in 45 states. Of 16 states participating in enhanced data surveillance, Delaware reported the second-highest percent change for suspected opioid overdose ED visits during that time period — 105 percent.
Of 2,075 suspected overdose-related ED visits during this time, 1,529 (74 percent) were in New Castle County, 355 (17 percent) in Sussex County and 191 (9 percent) in Kent County. The number of ED overdose visits increased most sharply and more than doubled in New Castle County from 189 in the third quarter of 2016 to 464 in the third quarter of 2017. It should be noted that the report does not include the state rates per 100,000 overdose-related deaths, which is a more stable measure of increases and decreases over time.
“Emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses, and clearly we are concerned about the increases here in Delaware,” said Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay. “The report’s findings highlight the need for enhanced prevention and treatment efforts in EDs, including offering overdose prevention education, naloxone and related training for patients, family members and friends, initiating buprenorphine in the ED and linking patients to treatment and services in the community as needed.”
While Delaware’s ED overdose visits more than doubled during this time period — from 296 in the third quarter of 2016 to 596 at the end of the third quarter of 2017 — due to Delaware’s population, it is possible that state rates of ED overdose visits are still lower than other states’ rates who did not show a percent change, or a negligible one, during this time.