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Philadelphia Research and Policy Initiative

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Public Health and the Opioid Crisis

Drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia are at historic levels, driven by growing opioid misuse and opioid use disorder. In 2018, a total of 1,116 people in the city died of overdoses—down slightly from 2017 but far higher than in previous years. Among the nation’s counties with at least 1 million residents, Philadelphia had the highest rate of overdose deaths in 2017.

Pew’s local work on this pressing issue includes research on the demographics of the problem, comparisons with other cities and counties, and analysis of available evidence-based treatment options, including medication for opioid use disorder. Pew also convenes policymakers, health care providers, and other stakeholders from Philadelphia and elsewhere to discuss innovative responses being undertaken locally and elsewhere.

In addition, Pew has examined other local health topics, including Philadelphians’ disability rates and behaviors—such as smoking and lack of exercise—that are considered risk factors for chronic diseases and lower health outcomes.

OUR WORK

Sudafed
Sudafed
Article

How Pew Is Helping to Address Philadelphia's Opioid Crisis

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Even before the pandemic, Philadelphia was among the cities hardest hit by the nation’s opioid problem. In 2019, the city recorded 1,150 deaths from drug overdoses, with 80% of them attributed to opioids. And city health officials say they expect the 2020 death toll to be higher because of COVID-19, a trend that has already been confirmed nationally.

Getty Images
Getty Images
Article

Federal Government Eases Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

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The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly created health care challenges worldwide. Typically, for example, people with opioid use disorder (OUD) have to check in frequently with health care providers in person to get needed treatment, a process in conflict with calls for social distancing.