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Allegheny County Overdose Deaths Up 22% In 2020

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Allegheny County says it saw a 22% increase in overdose deaths in 2020.

The Medical Examiner and departments of Health and Human Services released reports on the opioid crisis Wednesday.

The chief medical examiner reported there were 689 overdose deaths in 2020, which is up 125 from 2019. The three zip codes with the most overdose deaths in the county were 15210, 15212 and 15136.

"The epidemic of drug overdoses continues with a steady rise towards the peak year of 2017 when the widespread availability of Narcan resulted in a significant decline," said Dr. Karl Williams in a news release. "A particularly troubling trend is the increasing appearance of methamphetamine and newer synthetic analogues of fentanyl and the benzodiazepine group of agents."

A report from the departments of Health and Human Services shows Black residents have experienced a disproportionately high rate of accidental overdose deaths, with the rate of overdose deaths from the third quarter of 2019 through the second quarter of 2020 more than two times greater than white residents.

That report also found that about half of people who died from overdose deaths received publicly funded mental health or substance use disorder treatment one year before their death. Also, 30% had been involved with adult probation and 19% were booked in the county jail one year before their death.

"We're disheartened to see an increase in opioid overdose deaths last year," said Director of Human Services Erin Dalton in a press release. "Especially concerning is the disproportionately high rate of overdose deaths in our Black community and the continued effects of fentanyl on our region. The impact of the pandemic on social isolation and ability to seek and provide safe treatment can be felt in these latest data."

In response, the county says it's getting additional grant funding. One program, which was awarded funding from the CDC in 2019 and will get $5.2 million a year for three years, includes expanding existing surveillance efforts, expanding prevention efforts and improving linkages to care.

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