Drug Overdose Epidemic
As the United States’ drug crisis persists, communities across the nation continue to be ravaged by the proliferation of prescription and illicit substances. Polysubstance dependence has exacerbated the current crisis.
The substances causing overdose have now become as diverse and disparate as the communities they have infiltrated and damaged. In 2018 alone, drug overdose claimed the lives of more than 67,300 Americans--steadily contributing to the more than 700,000 causalities recorded since 1999,. Overdose rates continue to rise, demanding a progression in our understanding of the complexities surrounding substance use disorder.
The overdose epidemic is a widespread public health emergency, contributing to an increase in emergency department visits, non-fatal overdoses and widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases linked to intravenous drug use burdening public health with heavy economic costs from death, lost productivity and avoidable expenditures. The rapid rate of overdose deaths involving multiple drug types require a multifaced, all hands-on deck approach to reduce morbidity, mortality, and related harms. Through a harm reduction and health equity lens, surveillance and monitoring, increases in prevention and education, promotion of appropriate prescribing practices, and improvement and expansion of treatment and recovery services, these impacts can be mitigated—ultimately decelerating what has become a leading cause of death in the nation.
As the leading membership organization representing local health departments (LHDs), NACCHO recognizes drug overdose to be a significant public health concern, as well as the critical role that local health departments play in response to such a national emergency. NACCHO supports local health departments in their efforts to respond to the drug crisis through the implementation of evidence-based policies and programs from the prevention and treatment of substance use disorder and its related health consequences.
This webpage and toolkit will serve as a core resource providing information, resources and tools for LHDs seeking to build their capacity to respond to the drug overdose epidemic within their own communities. Resources will be continuously updated as the drug overdose epidemic develops.
If you have a resource you’d like to share, questions to ask or you’d like to learn more and be a part of the conversation around local responses to the drug overdose epidemic, please complete this form.
 Ogbu, U., Lotfipour, S., & Chakravarthy, B. (2015). Polysubstance Abuse: Alcohol, Opioids and Benzodiazepines Require Coordinated Engagement by Society, Patients, and Physicians [Abstract]. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 16(1), 76-79. doi:10.5811/westjem.2014.11.24720
 Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Warner M. Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2018.pdf icon NCHS Data Brief, no 356. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
 Wilson N, Kariisa M, Seth P, et al. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths—United States, 2017-2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:290-297.
New Resource: Overdose Spike Response Framework Communities and Local Health Departments
NACCHO announces a new tool titled OVERDOSE SPIKE RESPONSE FRAMEWORK FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS. This resource will help local health departments (LHDs) plan for, respond to, and evaluate public health responses to overdose spikes. LHDs play a leading role in detecting spikes and responding to them; but they are not alone. Much of their role requires coordination with other response partners in the planning, execution, and evaluation of an overdose spike response. This unique role of convening multi-sector partners is even more critical when co-occurring crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or other natural disasters, limit organizations’ capacity to prepare for and respond to an overdose spike event. Find more information in the Framework here: “OVERDOSE SPIKE RESPONSE FRAMEWORK FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS"
NACCHO's Local Opioid Prevention and Response: A Primer for Local Health Departments serves to inform local health departments about the domestic opioid epidemic and share success stories from LHDs currently engaged in opioid-related efforts, as well as resources and informative sidebars. To download a copy from NACCHO’s bookstore, go to https://eweb.naccho.org/prd/?NA826PDF, and sign in to your free myNACCHO account.
Please visit our toolkit for additional resources to assist local health departments build their own local and community-focused prevention and response efforts.
Have more questions, or know of a resource that could help other local health departments? Email us email@example.com!
Overdose Response Resources During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption to the normal operating procedures of local health departments (LHDs) and their partners. Understandably, staff capacity has been shifted as local public health staff work to arrest the spread of the virus and keep a worried public up to date as they are confronted with confusing mix of official announcements, news reports, and misinformation.
Unfortunately, the necessity for overdose prevention and response has not abated during the pandemic. Indeed, the substance use community faces increased risk as support services shutter or slow down operations, hospitals face severely increased caseloads, and people who use drugs are asked to socially distance from their support or safety groups.
Many LHDs have reached out to NACCHO for resources related to the pandemic and guidance about how to ensure their overdose response work can continue safely. Below is a curated list of resources for LHDs, the public, clinicians, harm reduction workers, and people who use drugs.
Please refer additional resource requests to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will attempt to assist you as soon as possible.
NACCHO's Opioid Epidemic Toolkit contains a multitude of resources, organized by topic and level, to support LHDs in their overdose prevention..
NACCHO is engaged in opioid prevention and response efforts in many counties and cities.
Check out our recent blog posts related to the opioids epidemic in Stories from the Field.
Use the resources below to learn more about MRC projects that address the opioid epidemic and find other resources about local responses.
NACCHO has several policy statements related to the Opioid Epidemic and its infectious disease consequences:
NACCHO also provides letters to Congress and the administration to influence policy in order to best support local health departments' response to the opioid epidemic, and advocates for sufficient funding to combat the opioid epidemic.
In March 2018, Michael E. Kilkenny, MD, MS Physician Director, Cabell-Huntington (WV) Health Department testified before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee in a hearing "Combating the Opioid Crisis: Prevention and Public Health Solutions." Watch the full video to see Dr. Kilkenny describe how his health department has successfully led community efforts to combat the dual epidemics of opioid misuse and infectious diseases associated with opioid addiction, or read NACCHO's recap of the hearing on Twitter.
On November 13, 2017, NACCHO hosted a Congressional briefing "Tackling the Opioid Epidemic and its Hidden Casualties: Local Health Departments on the Frontlines" with cosponsors National Association of Counties and U.S. Conference of Mayors, with panelists that represented a range of local stakeholders in the fight against opioid use and abuse.
If you have a resource you’d like to share, questions to ask, or you’d like to learn more and be part of the conversation around local response to the opioid epidemic, please complete the following form.