Between April 2020 and April 2021, the US experienced a nearly 30% jump in overdose deaths compared to a year before, according to data from the CDC. Overdose spikes in South Florida are also blamed on fentanyl. Media outlets cover other opioid news across the country.

The Texas Tribune: Texans Experience Surge Of Fentanyl-Related Deaths

One hundred thousand Americans died of drug overdoses in a single year between April 2020 and April 2021. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths increased nearly 30% from the same period the year before. Most of these overdoses are attributed to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is lethal in very small amounts. Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans age 18 to 45. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has doubled down on law enforcement and border security in response to the crisis. In July, he signed laws that enhance criminal penalties for manufacturing and distributing fentanyl. (Santucci, 3/15)

Houston Chronicle: Deaths Tied To Fentanyl Skyrocket In Harris County, Where The Drug Kills More Than One Person Every Day

Houston and Texas are seeing a record number of deaths from the opioid epidemic, with fentanyl as the principal driver. All it takes is a dose of fentanyl the size of a pencil tip to kill a person. In Harris County alone, fentanyl kills more than one person every day. Fatal drug overdoses increased 52 percent from 2019 to 2021, according to Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences data. Deaths involving fentanyl skyrocketed by 341 percent in the same period, from 104 to 459. (Tallet, 3/14)

In news on the opioid crisis in Florida and California –

Miami Herald: Fentanyl Causing Spike Of ODs In South Florida

In less than a week, fentanyl has been linked to at least 10 overdoses in South Florida – a sudden and scary spike in victims of a synthetic drug that can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and is far and away the state’s deadliest opioid . On Sunday, four men were hospitalized after overdosing in a home near Fort Lauderdale. Three days earlier, a group of students that included West Point cadets – including one player on the Army football team – were hospitalized after overdosing on fentanyl-laced cocaine while on spring break at a vacation rental property in Wilton Manors. Whether the two incidents are related, possibly pointing to a dangerous mixture being peddled in the Fort Lauderdale area, was not yet clear. (Ovalle, 3/14)

NPR: One Person Was Arrested After West Point Cadets Overdose In South Florida

One person was arrested Saturday in connection with an incident involving several people, including cadets from the West Point military academy, overdosing on fentanyl on Thursday in Wilton Manors, Fla., Police said. Wilton Manors Police Department officers responded to a call Thursday evening where six males were “feeling the effects of a drug overdose,” officials said. All six were transferred to nearby hospitals for care, and later a seventh female patient was later transported to a hospital after feeling sick. (Shivaram, 3/12)

San Francisco Chronicle: Fentanyl Test Strips Are In Demand At Bay Area Bars And Restaurants: ‘People Come In Just For The Strips’

On a Thursday afternoon, Alison Heller arrived at Rockridge Improvement Club in Oakland right when it opened at 4 pm But she wasn’t there just for fun – she was coming in to refill the bar’s supply of fentanyl test strips. “We just restocked yesterday, but I’m sure they need more,” Heller said, as she took the plastic lid off of the fishbowl in the bathroom. Sure enough, eight of the bowl’s 12 strips had already been taken. Heller promptly restuffed the bowl. (Echeverria, 3/14)

San Francisco Chronicle: Mayor Breed Is Not Extending The Tenderloin Emergency For SF Drug Crisis. What Does That Mean For The Neighborhood?

Mayor London Breed is letting the 90-day state of emergency in the Tenderloin expire, but will continue daily operations in the neighborhood with street cleaning and outreach to get people who are homeless and using drugs into services and off the sidewalk. Breed will also keep open the city’s new linkage center at UN Plaza, opened as part of the emergency, which provides basic services such as food, laundry and showers to people on the streets and tries to connect them with housing and drug treatment. (Moench, 3/14)

Also –

North Carolina Health News: NC’s First Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Program

North Carolina psychiatrists who want to become board certified in treating addiction will have an in-state option to learn and practice starting as soon as July. The Mountain Area Health Education Center – known as MAHEC – will train up to two psychiatrists in a yearlong fellowship based in western NC They’ll learn trauma-informed practices for managing substance use disorder, as well as skills for identifying and effectively treating people experiencing both addiction and other mental illnesses. There are only about 50 other addiction psychiatry fellowships nationwide, just two others are located in rural regions. (Donnelly-DeRoven, 3/15)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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