In Delaware, overdose deaths have fallen for the first time in 10 years


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This story was supported by a Statehouse reporting grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Constance Johnson of Wilmington sits in the atTAcK Addiction Resource Center assembling sanitary bags to distribute to people trying to get sober or in recovery. Her son Camille died of a fentanyl overdose in 2022.

“It’s important to me that we remove the stigma,” she said.

New data from the state's medical examiner's office offers a sign of hope in the fight against drug overdoses. The state is struggling to curb the spread of deadly drugs, including fentanyl, cocaine and the animal tranquilizer xylazine.

Findings released Thursday by Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and the Department of Health and Human Services show that overdose deaths fell from one year to the next for the first time in a decade. There were 527 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2023, a decrease of 1.8% compared to 2022.

“I have been extremely pleased with the decline in fatal overdose deaths in our state,” Hall-Long said. “It's so meaningful for all the amazing partners, individuals and advocates who have come together for the first time with our state agencies, our commissions and consortia to really see this difference. “It's really important.”

The Forensic Science Division reported 537 deaths due to drug and alcohol intoxication in 2022, an increase of about 4.3% from the 514 deaths in 2021.

Joanna Champney, director of Delaware's Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said in a statement that her strategy is to remove the stigma of addiction, encourage more health care providers to screen for substance abuse disorders, get people into treatment and ensure that they are treated regardless of income or ability to pay. The state has also focused on ensuring Narcan, a drug that can reverse an overdose, is available throughout the state.