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State's annual review of opioid deaths recommends housing, trauma training, criminal justice reform

Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s commission for investigating drug overdoses has a list of recommendations for Gov. Carney and state lawmakers.

The Delaware Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission (DOFRC) released its second annual report this week. It reviewed 130 overdoses from 2019 and found most victims were men, more than a third had inadequate housing, more than one third experienced a traumatic event and about 40 percent experienced at least one previous overdose. 

Commission chair Erin Booker notes the report’s first recommendation is for Delaware to switch to a Housing First model used in other states and cities like Philadelphia.

“There needs to be established housing programs for people with substance use disorder where they can live safely, but also have wrap around services,” said Booker. “So get those case management services. Get their social needs met. Get their behavioral health needs met.”     

The commission also recommends establishing a notification system through the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program to alert prescribers of a patient’s non-fatal overdose.

It also recommends expanding New Castle County’s Hero Help Program statewide.  That program offers clinical resources in lieu of incarceration to those with substance use disorder. 

And the report calls for more education for clinicians on trauma intervention.

“We need to make sure our work force here in Delaware has the training so that our licensed clinicians have true trauma training that is accessible to them, that is affordable to them, so we really can intervene when these things occur,” said Booker.     

The report does not address or mention the synthetic opioid fentanyl which has been the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state in recent years. 

Delaware had the second highest overdose death rate in the nation in 2019, and state officials say 2020’s death toll is likely higher.

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