Availability of mental health practitioners and substance use treatment programs (opioid, alcohol, smoking); percentage of individuals receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT).


Rates of substance-related hospital emergency department visits and hospitalization.


Age-adjusted rate of deaths per 100,000 persons that were determined by the medical examiner to be caused by drug/medication overdose.


Opioid overdose deaths in Philadelphia have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. This increase was driven by overdose deaths among Black Philadelphians, as numbers for White Philadelphians decreased.

Fatal overdoses among Black individuals rose from a monthly average of about 30 in the three months preceding Philadelphia’s stay-at-home order to approximately 49 during April through June 2020. This is more than a 50 percent increase.

This is the first time in recent history that the absolute number of deaths was higher among non-Hispanic Black individuals than among non-Hispanic White individuals.

Opioid Overdoses 2020

Source: Khatri et al., 2021.  Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Unintentional Fatal and Nonfatal Emergency Medical Services–Attended Opioid Overdoses During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Philadelphia. JAMA Network Open.


Rates of unintentional overdose deaths vary drastically across Philadelphia neighborhoods and are increased in zip codes with higher levels of economic disenfranchisement

The reversal in opioid overdose disparities in Philadelphia may be the result of pandemic-related stressors that disproportionately impact Black Philadelphians including economic deprivation, social and physical isolation, substance use treatment center closures, and changes in drug supply networks. 

Poverty, which is significantly associated with risky health behaviors including substance use and abuse, is pervasive and widespread in Philadelphia. Black and Hispanic communities experience the highest rates of poverty and disparities in economic deprivation have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic

Ongoing Efforts in the Philadelphia Community


The Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction (SUPHR) program leads the city’s efforts to reduce deaths from drug overdose and improve access to substance use treatment and prevention programs. The goal of SUPHR includes reducing the number of people initiating use of illicit opioids and other drugs and ensuring that individuals with active addiction receive the harm reduction and treatment resources they need. To aid these efforts, SUPHR collects and analyzes data on overdose trends, hospitalizations, and drug treatment utilization. 


Penn Medicine’s Center for Opioid Recovery and Engagement (CORE) provides comprehensive peer support for individuals struggling with opioid use and their loved ones. CORE’s mission is to provide excellent care that supports multiple pathways to recovery by removing barriers and facilitating access to recovery resources, including: continuous peer support, personalized recovery, and enhanced case management services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CORE has shifted operations to a virtual model that connects patients in the Emergency Department with CORE team members who guide patients to the services they need, including medication-assisted treatment and additional psychosocial support. 


Prevention Point Philadelphia

Prevention Point Philadelphia is a nonprofit public health organization providing harm reduction services to the Philadelphia community. With the mission to promote health, empowerment, and safety for communities affected by drug use and poverty, Prevention Point provides access to comprehensive testing, treatment, and medical clinics, drop-in center, and syringe service program. 


Efforts listed here may be independent of Accelerate Health Equity. Check back to learn about a broader list of health equity efforts.