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Minorities Make Up Increasing Share of Drug Overdose Deaths In Wayne County, Report Says

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Image credit: Mark Oniffrey / Creative Commons

Experts predict overdose deaths in Wayne County to stay the same from 2018 to 2019, but trends show deaths increasing among communities of color.

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A preliminary report on drug overdoses in Wayne County predicts the number of deaths will stay the same as last year, but trends indicate deaths could increase in communities of color. 

An analysis presented during last month’s Substance Use Disorders Oversight Policy Board meeting compared drug overdose trends (PDF) between 2017, 2018 and mid-year 2019, using data supplied by the Wayne County Office of the Medical Examiner.


Click on the player above to hear WDET Civic Reporter Eleanore Catolico discuss overdose deaths in Wayne County.


The majority of the deceased in 2018 were predominantly white and in their 40s. However, there was an increase in overdose deaths (PDF) in 2018 among African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Arab Americans.

African Americans had an increase of four percent from 2017 to 2018 and Latinos had an increase of over nine percent. Six deaths were identified as Arab American in 2018, which represents a 200 percent overall increase from 2017. Asian Americans went from two deaths in 2017 to three deaths in 2018. Overdose deaths among whites decreased by 17.6 percent for those years.

According to the analysis, mid-way through 2019 there have been 491 drug overdose deaths in Wayne County, 52.8 percent of which occurred in Detroit. In 2018, there were 915 deaths in Wayne County, 54.3 percent in Detroit, and experts predicted there will not be a dramatic increase once records are fully counted. The report is provisional and subject to change. 

Fentanyl, Cocaine Deaths in Detroit, Westland, Dearborn

Detroit continues to lead in the number of overdose deaths, with 468 deaths out of 915 in Wayne County in 2018. Dearborn ranks third, with 43 overdose deaths. 

The two major drugs cited as causes of death are fentanyl and cocaine and reflect similar patterns from 2018 to 2019. These drugs are prevalent across the region, including Detroit, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, Westland and others. Fentanyl accounted for 74.6 percent of overdose cases in the county in 2018.   


This report was based on notes from the Detroit Documenters program.


Dr. Brian Spitsbergen of Wellspring Lutheran Services proposed a pilot project on developing a mobile application to assist those with substance use disorders in a time of crisis during the meeting.  

The Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network is planning to expand Naloxene kit distributions in 2020 to include hotels and restaurants because it’s been found that clients frequent the restrooms at these sites. This year, more than 2000 Naloxene kits have been distributed and the agency’s mobile crisis unit travels across the county to provide treatment and counseling. 


Eleanore Catolico, Civic Reporter

Eleanore Catolico is Civic Reporter with 101.9 WDET, covering local affairs with the Detroit Documenters program. She enjoys techno.


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