Substance Use Prevention Program
Harris County Public Health is committed to reducing overdose deaths in the county through the Substance Use Prevention program. The team operates two grants, the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant from the CDC, and the Integrated Family Planning Opioid Response (IFPOR) grant from TTOR. These grants focus on reducing overdose deaths at a local level and have various strategies to do so, including prevention methods, linkage to care, and peer recovery coaching.
The Overdose Epidemic in Harris County
Provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, an increase of nearly 15% from 2020. Of these deaths, 75% involved opioids, primarily synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in Harris County from 2016-2020 and have risen alongside national averages, with an estimated 1084 overdose deaths in 2021.
From 2016 to 2021, overdose deaths in Harris County have increased by 78%, with opioid-involved and methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths occurring most frequently.
The main driver of increased overdose deaths appears to be the increase of fentanyl in the illicit drug supply (illegally manufactured street drugs). Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often added to street drugs to make them more potent and more addictive but are incredibly dangerous. It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and just 2mg can result in a lethal overdose. Fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in Harris County have increased 331% from 2019-2021.