NYC and Crack. Appalachia and Pills. Now, Baltimore

The New York Times and Baltimore Banner reveal city's fentanyl problem
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2024 12:12 PM CDT
Baltimore's Fatal Overdose Problem Shocked Baltimore
   (Getty Images / Brendan Beale)

"These days, heroin is rarely found" in Baltimore. If that has you thinking that the city has had a dramatic turnaround since the days of the Wire, you'd be mistaken. The New York Times and Baltimore Banner's in-depth investigation has found that Baltimore has become the fatal overdose capital of the US by a landslide, and fentanyl, not heroin or opioids, is to blame. Almost 6,000 people have died in the past six years. The staggering context: "The death rate from 2018 to 2022 was nearly double that of any other large city, and higher than nearly all of Appalachia during the prescription pill crisis, the Midwest during the height of rural meth labs, or New York during the crack epidemic."

While Baltimore has been at the top of the fatal overdose list for decades, what's changed is by how much. The death rate had historically been closer to the national average; now it's shoulders above. From 2018 to 2022, Baltimore County saw 170 fatal overdoses per 100,000 people; the rate for the next highest county (Tennessee's Knox) drops to 86. This was news to Baltimore. "The fact that the city's status became so much worse than any other of its size was not known to the mayor, the deputy mayor ... or multiple council members until they were recently shown data compiled by Times/Banner reporters," per the article. It cites a reeling in of overdose prevention efforts by the city amid competing priorities: "a shrinking population, tensions over policing following the death of Freddie Gray, turnover at City Hall," and more. (Read the full article for much more.)

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