The State of the City 2018

Philadelphia’s opioid crisis

A panel discussion on the latest evidence-based strategies being used to improve treatment and prevention, and examples of innovative, multifaceted responses undertaken locally and in other cities.

By many measures, as indicated in The Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2018 “State of the City” report, scheduled for release in early April, Philadelphia is on an upward trend, with an increasing population, strong job growth, and a vibrant arts and culture scene. But the city is also facing one of the highest drug overdose rates in the nation, fueled predominantly by an intensifying opioid crisis.

As Philadelphia works to address this problem, Pew—as part of its commitment to informing dialogue on important issues in the city—will host a panel discussion April 20 on the latest research to improve treatment and prevention options and examples of multitiered strategies being undertaken locally and in other jurisdictions such as Baltimore and Staten Island, New York. The conversation will also focus on successes and barriers to progress in Philadelphia and other cities.

Larry Eichel, director of Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative, will provide opening remarks, including a brief overview of key findings from this year’s “State of the City” report. The panel will be moderated by Maiken Scott, host of WHYY’s “The Pulse.” Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions.

The event is free and open to the public; advance registration is required. Breakfast will be served.

Featured panelists

Thomas A. Farley, M.D., M.P.H.

Commissioner of health, city of Philadelphia

Thomas Farley is commissioner of health for the city of Philadelphia. From 2009 to 2014, Farley was commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. As health commissioner, Farley advocated for innovative public health policies, including making the city’s parks and beaches smoke-free, prohibiting discounts on cigarettes, raising the legal sales age for tobacco to 21, capping the portion size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants at 16 ounces, and restricting the burning of air-polluting fuels to heat buildings. He is coauthor of Prescription for a Healthy Nation, with RAND senior scientist Deborah Cohen, and author of Saving Gotham: A Billionaire Mayor, Activist Doctors, and the Fight for 8 Million Lives.

Michael McMahon

District attorney, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York

Recognizing the significant challenges facing Staten Island as an epicenter in the heroin and opioid crisis, District Attorney Michael McMahon has made the issue a central focus for his office since taking on his role in January 2016. He has coordinated a multifaceted, evidence-based approach to addressing the crisis, including prosecuting dealers, offering supportive services to affected individuals and families, and increasing public awareness through media outreach and educational presentations at the community level. As a result, Staten Island’s opioid-related deaths decreased by 26 percent in 2017. McMahon previously served as the city council member representing Staten Island’s North Shore for eight years before being elected to Congress in 2008.

Cynthia Reilly

Director, Pew’s substance use prevention and treatment initiative

Cynthia Reilly directs Pew’s work on federal and state initiatives to reduce the inappropriate use of prescription opioids while ensuring that patients have access to effective pain management. She also focuses on expanding access to effective treatment for substance use disorders through increased use of medication-assisted treatment. Prior to joining Pew, she worked on issues related to the safety and quality of medication use for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in Bethesda, Maryland. Reilly received her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Temple University and her master’s in global health and medical policy from George Mason University.

Evan Behrle

Special adviser for opioid policy, Baltimore City Health Department

In his role as special adviser for opioid policy, Evan Behrle helps to coordinate Baltimore’s three-pronged response to the unprecedented number of people dying from opioid overdoses: saving lives with naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of the drugs; expanding access to evidence-based treatment; and de-stigmatizing addiction through outreach and education. In 2015, the city’s health department took the extraordinary step of issuing a blanket prescription for naloxone to all 620,000 residents of Baltimore, which has saved over 800 lives since then. Behrle is a former Rhodes scholar and holds a master’s in political philosophy from Oxford University.

Register Now

Join the discussion on Twitter with @PewHealth using #PewTalksOpioids

Date: Friday, April 20, 2018
Time: 8:00 - 10:30 AM
Location: Science History Institute 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Drug overdose in Philadelphia
Drug overdose in Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Drug Overdose Death Rate Among Highest in Nation

In 2016, figure outpaced all but 1 of 44 largest counties, reflecting opioids’ impact

Quick View

Philadelphia had the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016 among the nation’s 44 counties with over 1 million residents: 46 per 100,000 residents, with most attributed to the misuse of opioids. Only Allegheny County, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, had a higher rate.


State of the City

Quick View

The Philadelphia annual “State of the City” report highlights the essential facts about Philadelphia’s residents and neighborhoods, along with indicators of the city’s condition. From demographic trends, income, housing, and the economy to public safety, arts and culture, education, and government, the “State of the City” is a data dashboard for all who care about Philadelphia’s future.

Data Visualization

The High Price of the Opioid Crisis

Increasing access to treatment can reduce costs

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Data Visualization

Untreated opioid use disorder (OUD), a chronic brain disease, has a serious cost to people, their families, and society via increased health care spending, criminal justice issues, and lost productivity.