New Highs for Heroin & Opioid OD Deaths in Philly

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wants the state to do more to fight opioid addiction while the city has released data on the total amount of deadly overdoses by neighborhood. (Published Friday, June 3, 2016)

Neighborhoods that make up Philadelphia's River Wards and North Delaware sections were hit hardest by deadly opioid and heroin overdoses last year, according to new data released by the city.

Sixty-seven out of every 100,000 residents in those city sections, which include a dozen neighborhoods like Port Richmond, Fishtown, Kensington, Tacony and Wissinoming, died of opioid overdose in 2015, the data showed.

No section of the city was spared by the opioid epidemic which claimed nearly 700 lives in Philadelphia last year. Combined with deaths from 2014, some 1,285 people were killed by heroin, opioid prescription painkillers and fentanyl. Ninety percent of those who died over the past two years were city residents.

The numbers represent grim peaks in deaths from the ever-growing local and national crisis. Drug overdoses killed more people in the United States than car crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Philadelphia City Council held a public hearing on the crisis last month in an effort to develop an action plan to knock back deaths and reduce addiction rates. David Oh, an At-Large councilman, has been leading the push, holding a series of community meetings to listen to the community's concerns.

NBC10 explored the tragic world of heroin and opioid addiction earlier this year in a special investigation, Generation Addicted. The in-depth project highlighted people suffering to break free from the drug's strong and deadly grip as well as explore efforts by public health officials and law enforcement to address the growing epidemic.

Men died at a rate three times higher than women, according to the data. Among the racial breakdown, whites were killed by overdoses at twice the rate of blacks while Hispanics came in between both.

The local data was released Thursday as part of a new publication, CHART, from Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. He issued recommendations to physicians urging them to reduce prescribing opioids and help patients who become addicted to get treatment. The guidance echoed instructions from countless other health professionals dismayed by the crisis.

The report was made public on the same day officials in Minnesota said music icon Prince's death was caused by a fentanyl overdose.

The health department plans to produce more CHART reports highlighting data about public health issues in the city, officials said.