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First State overdose deaths continue, spike in Sussex County

Delaware Public Media

Over the weekend – two Delawareans died of opioid overdoses in Sussex County.

More than 20 additional overdoses in Delaware were reversed with naloxone during that same time span.


Officials are working to stem the growing trend of opioid addiction and overdose deaths in the First State - and determine where gaps in that effort are.


Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker says it’s not a resource availability problem. She mentioned Harrington’s Detox facility – providing 16 beds for medical detoxification for adults, 12 slots for assessment and stabilization and 30-100 slots for intensive outpatient detoxification.

However, she says there's a lack of education and outreach. Walker says as a family physician who’s treated patients with chronic pain and addiction issues, she feels the medical community needs to do more to educate the public about the link between painkillers and addiction.

“The medical community can do more to educate about appropriate pain control and treatment, but we also have to figure out how we can prevent things," Walker said.

And the problem is not limited to Delaware. According to state officials, the United States prescribes 80% of the world’s opioids, which Walker and others say needs to change.

Additionally – just last year - over 52,000 people across the country died from drug overdoses, which Senator Tom Carper calls staggering.

“That’s almost as many people that died in the entire Vietnam War on our side, almost the same number of people who died in the Vietnam War," Carper said. "Unbelievable.”

Carper and others are looking to the 21st Century Cures Act – signed into law last year – to help reverse the deadly cycle of addiction. It calls for $2 million to flow to prevention and intervention services like peer counselors.  However, the act hasn’t been funded yet.


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