A troubling new report from the San Francisco Department of Health shows the California city, which falls within the district represented by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saw a 70% increase in drug overdose deaths compared to the previous year, as reported by KPIX.
As researchers noted, more than one person died every day in the city last year — a total of 441 compared to 259 in 2018.
“We had been sounding the alarm”
More than half of those overdose deaths were attributed to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid widely abused across the nation in recent years. Local activists say the news was both predictable and preventable.
Kristen Marshall, the project head of a group called Drug Overdose Prevention and Education, explained the reaction in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
“This doesn’t surprise any of us,” she said. “We had been sounding the alarm for the last three, four, even five years. We said fentanyl is coming.”
In addition to the fatal overdoses, another 2,610 potential overdoses were treated with a prescription narcotic last year. That number was just 509 in 2015, so it is likely that the death toll would have been substantially higher without an uptick in the use of Narcan and similar drugs.
“Advising people to remain more isolated”
More alarming still, experts say the effects of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to even more overdoses this year.
Dr. Phillip Coffin, the researcher who wrote the health department’s report, explained this possible ramifications in a statement to the Chronicle.
“We are advising people to remain more isolated, which could paradoxically increase the risk of an overdose being more fatal,” he said. “A lot of things that we want to do and support are in conflict with our infectious disease prevention strategies.”
The Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose wrote in May to Pelosi and other congressional leaders in both parties for help in fighting the opioid epidemic, but the congresswoman’s decision to name members to a commission fell short of many expectations.
President Donald Trump has attracted some criticism for pointing out that many of the nation’s cities and states experiencing a spike in lawlessness and destitution happen to be led by Democrats.
The apparent failure of leaders to respond to this tragic trend, however, is sure to bolster that perception among Trump’s supporters.