DHSS: Del. Overdose Deaths Rose 15% In 2021

Overdoses claimed the lives of 515 people in Delaware in 2021, a record for one year and a 15% increase from 2020.
The Delaware Division of Forensic Science annual report also indicates that 425 of those 515 deaths involved fentantyl. That is a slight decrease from the previous year. However, overdose deaths linked to cocaine increased nearly 9%.

From DHSS:

In its annual report for 2021, the Division of Forensic Science reported 515 overdose deaths, an increase of 15.2% over the 447 deaths reported in 2020. The 515 deaths by county:

  • New Castle County: 334
  • Sussex County: 94
  • Kent County: 87

Of the 515 total deaths, 348 involved males (68%) and 167 involved females (32%). By race and ethnicity, 72% of the individuals who died were white (372); 24% were Black (122); 4% were Hispanic (20); and 1 was Asian.

The age category with the highest number of deaths was 31-40 with 144 (28%). The remaining age groups ranked by number of deaths:

  • 41-50: 128 deaths (24.9%)
  • 51-60: 115 deaths (22.3%)
  • 61 or older: 64 deaths (12.4%)
  • 21-30: 60 deaths (11.7%)
  • 10-20: 2 deaths (0.4%)

“Our worries about the impact that COVID-19 would have on Delawareans already struggling with substance use disorder appear to be borne out by the Division of Forensic Science report on overdose deaths,” Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik said. “At DHSS, we will continue to prioritize such harm-reduction strategies as training more loved ones to use Narcan, the medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, and to help more people in getting connected to the treatment they need to begin their recovery.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic increased stress in people’s lives, negatively impacted mental health, and isolated people from services,” Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Joanna Champney said. “Coupled with the availability of illegal fentanyl, this created a very dangerous situation.” 

“DSAMH is funding expansions of the continuum of care for substance use treatment services in each county – from withdrawal management to residential treatment, from outpatient treatment to sober living recovery residences,” Champney added. “For people who are uninsured or underinsured, the State will fund their treatment services. We’re also funding mobile treatment services and we have transportation services available. We want to reduce as many barriers to health care as possible.”  

More resources:

  • Reach the free Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE or 1-833-946-7333.
  • Get behavioral health tips and reminders by texting DEHOPE to 55753.
  • Search for treatment services and resources in Delaware or nearby states at DHSS’ one-stop website, HelpIsHereDE.com.

Champney encouraged anyone who is using substances 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. If you or someone you know is ready to get help, we invite you to walk into one of our Bridge Clinics for an assessment, or go to TreatmentConnection.com to find out which treatment providers are located near you.”

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.

To find training or distribution events, a participating pharmacy, or the Bridge Clinic in your county, go to HelpIsHereDE.com, and click on the overdose prevention tab.

The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s Bridge Clinic locations and hours:

DSAMH Central Office
14 Central Ave.
New Castle, DE 19720

New Castle County Hope Center
365 Airport Road
New Castle, DE 19720
Mon-Fri: 8:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sat-Sun: 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

James W. Williams State Service Center
805 River Road, Third Floor
Dover, DE 19901
Mon-Fri: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Thurman Adams State Service Center
546 S. Bedford St.
Georgetown, DE 19947
Mon-Fri: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.