CalHPS Issues Report on California’s Overdose Crisis

California Health Policy Strategies (CalHPS) recently published a policy brief detailing the overdose crisis in California between 2017 and 2021. The report calls attention to the significant increase in drug overdose deaths throughout the state.

The policy brief’s topline findings include:

  • Preventable drug-related overdose deaths have doubled since 2017 – Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 9,500 Californians died from drug-related overdose deaths, which is equivalent to 23 preventable drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with an acceleration of the overdose crisis with approximately 1,000 additional unanticipated deaths in 2020.
  • Drug-related fatal overdose is a top 10 cause of death in California and kills more people than influenza and pneumonia and over twice as many people killed in traffic accidents.
  • Synthetic opioids and stimulants are the drugs most frequently involved in the increased number of fatal overdoses. Approximately 90 percent of all fatal overdoses now involve one or both these drug classes.
  • Overdose deaths disproportionately impact some age groups and race/ethnicities and the pandemic made the overdose epidemic worse among many of the most disadvantaged groups. Blacks are the most overrepresented amongst overdose fatalities and they experienced the largest increase in overdose mortality.

The report is a product of the joint effort of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Expansion Project, Health Management Associates (HMA), and CalHPS.

The full report is available here.