A health scientist at a national public health organization recently contacted the Network for information about states that have instituted drug overdose review teams.
Since 2001, overdose deaths from many of the most common street drugs, as well as from prescription drugs, have been on the rise across the United States. Deaths from heroin, for example, increased six-fold between 2001 and 2014, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, while prescription drug overdoses increased by almost three-fold in the same time period.
Drug overdose review teams can be employed to examine overdose deaths within a jurisdiction in an effort to identify trends and patterns and to recommend programmatic or policy change as well as legal interventions that may prove particularly effective in reducing drug overdose deaths in that jurisdiction.
The Network’s research found that a number of states have committees at the state or local level to review child overdose fatalities, but only four states have legislation authorizing overdose fatality review panels.
- Delaware has recently enacted legislation to establish a statewide Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission. The relevant authorizing legislation (SB174) was signed in April, and it appears that the Commission is still being formed.
- Maryland enacted a law in 2014 that authorizes local overdose fatality review teams at the county level. Proposed legislation initially called for a statewide review team, but the final legislation only included county-level teams. The legislation is HB1282.
- Pennsylvania passed a law in 2012 that created an interdisciplinary team that reviews methadone deaths only. The relevant law is the Methadone Death and Incident Review Act (Act 148). The 2013 Annual Report by that team can be found here.
- Finally, West Virginia has a statewide Fatality and Mortality Review Team “created to oversee and coordinate the examination, review and assessment of” a number of types of deaths, including “The deaths of all persons in West Virginia who die as a result of unintentional prescription or pharmaceutical drug overdoses.” The legislation can be found in W. Va. Code § 61-12A-1.