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Overdose deaths in Delaware reached a new record high in May

Delaware Public Media

Delaware hits a new high for suspected overdose deaths in a month in May.

Last month 42 people in Delaware died from suspected overdoses, according to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science. The previous monthly high total was 39 in August 2018 and May 2020.

Department of Health and Social Services officials fear the vast majority of deaths will be connected to fentanyl, or to the increasing use of cocaine.

Jill Fredel is the director of communications for DHSS, and she says that fear comes directly from last year’s overdose deaths.

"We know from 2021 that we saw a very high level of fentanyl use involved in the deaths that we saw,” said Fredel. “We saw, unfortunately 515 people die in 2021, that also was a record, and in those deaths about 82% of the deaths involved fentanyl and more than 45% involved cocaine."

May’s preliminary totals show the majority of the 42 deaths involved people in New Castle County with 25. There were 12 in Sussex County, and five in Kent County.

So far this year there have been 159 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware, and that’s about the same rate as last year.

Fredel says the state is doing its best in trying to reduce overdose deaths.

"I think there are two prongs, one is harm reduction and Dr. Rattay from Public Health talks a lot about that we want to get narcan - some people know it as naloxone - we want to get it into as many people's hands as we possibly can," said Fredel.

Fredel adds the state has opened up more avenues to get Narcan including pharmacies and DHSS’ own Bridge Clinics, which also offer in-person support.

Fredel notes support is also available through the 24/7 Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE, or you can search for services and resources at

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.