Fatal overdoses among Black Philadelphians soared during the pandemic, new data show
City officials say the alarming rise in deaths was likely made worse by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fatal overdoses among Black Philadelphians skyrocketed in the first three quarters of 2020, new data from the city health department show. And overdoses have risen at alarming rates in several communities outside the neighborhoods typically considered “hot spots” for drug deaths.
City officials say the spike in deaths, noted in a city report on its Opioid Response Unit, was likely made worse by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the latest data show how Philadelphia’s overdose crisis is changing, affecting more people of color — who also have suffered the most from COVID-19 — across the city.
Overall, overdose deaths rose 11% in the first three quarters of 2020 in Philadelphia, compared with the same period in 2019, and while the full tally of overdose deaths for 2020 has not yet been confirmed, health officials expect a record-breaking death toll.
But overdose deaths among white residents decreased by 7.3% in the first three quarters of 2020, while deaths among Black Philadelphians increased by 40.3%. Deaths among Hispanic Philadelphians also increased, by 5.9%, according to the report on the unit, which is a collaboration among various city agencies to address the opioid epidemic.
The report also notes that while overdoses have decreased in some zip codes that are still considered hot spots for drug deaths -- like South Philadelphia’s 19148 and Kensington’s 19134 -- several zip codes in West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia saw overdoses jump by more than 25% in the first three quarters of 2020, compared with the same time period in 2019.