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Hospitalizations for Opioid Overdose Decline

October 10, 2022

Hospitalizations for opioid overdose decreased about 27 percent from 2016 to 2021, according to a new report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).

The research brief evaluates the number of people who were admitted to a Pennsylvania acute care hospital for an opioid overdose, but does not track patients who were treated with naloxone or cared for in an emergency setting.

The number of hospital overdoses has had minimal change since 2018, other than a small increase coinciding with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors note.

“The findings in this new report shed light on the status of Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic over several years and emphasize the decrease in hospitalizations for opioid overdose since 2016,” said Barry Buckingham, PHC4’s executive director.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Then and now:  During 2016, 3,342 people were hospitalized for opioid overdoses (1,787 for pain medication, 1,555 for heroin). During 2021, there were 2,429 hospitalizations (1,705 for pain medication, 724 for heroin).
  • By the numbers:  During 2021, patients hospitalized with an overdose spent 11,750 days in the hospital, with an average length of stay of 4.8 days.
  • Fentanyl:  About 18 percent (427) of hospitalizations for overdose were for fentanyl. More than a third of all opioid hospitalizations that ended in death were for fentanyl.
  • Statewide, by county:  The statewide hospitalization rate during 2021 was 22.9 per 100,000 residents. Philadelphia (52 per 100,000), Berks (35.4), and Fayette (35.2) counties had the highest rates among reporting counties.
  • Demographic insights:  People between 25 and 44 and 45 and 64 had higher overdose rates than the statewide average. Male residents, Black and Hispanic residents, and those living in high poverty areas also had rates significantly above the statewide average.

“While these results show decreases in the inpatient treatment of opioid overdoses in Pennsylvania, care provided in other settings such as emergency departments or by first responders may show different patterns,” Buckingham said.

HAP continues to advocate for resources that bolster access to behavioral health care across the commonwealth. This includes efforts to grow our behavioral health workforce, promote easier access to mental health services, and remove barriers to care.

Learn more about our behavioral health advocacy.

The PHC4 report is available online.