To increase transparency and community awareness, the Fairfax County Health Department has updated the Opioid Overdoses Dashboard. These changes better inform residents about trends in non-fatal and fatal opioid overdoses in the Fairfax Health District. The updates focus on two areas.
First, we provide more age categories to better show opioid overdose trends in youth and young adults. Because of the increase in youth overdoses over the past few years, the dashboard now displays overdoses among those 0-17 years old.
Secondly, we now break out deaths involving fentanyl. Previously, the dashboard only showed deaths involving prescription opioids and deaths involving heroin. While fatal overdoses may be linked with multiple drugs, this update highlights the increase in overdose deaths involving fentanyl. There were 63 opioid overdose deaths from January through September 2022, according to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Sixty-one (97%) of those deaths involved fentanyl.
“The goal of the dashboard is to help Fairfax County residents better understand the threat that opioids, including fentanyl, pose in the community and recognize that overdoses and overdose deaths are increasingly in young people, while continuing to affect people of both sexes, and all racial and ethnic groups,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, Director of Epidemiology and Population Health. “There is an urgent need to bring information to light to make sure teens and families know that the risk is real and that fentanyl poisonings are happening here in our communities.”
Information on the dashboard comes from two primary sources. The first source is the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE), managed by the Virginia Department of Health. ESSENCE identifies overdose patients seen at emergency rooms and urgent care centers in the Fairfax Health District based on the chief complaints and the diagnoses given by healthcare providers at the end of the visit.
The second source of information is the OCME. Every death that occurs in the Commonwealth of Virginia that is deemed “suspicious, unexpected, and sudden” is investigated by the OCME. The Medical Examiner posts information about drug overdose-related deaths on their website.
The dashboard is updated every month. Notes on the dashboard show when the last update to the dashboard was made.
Learn more about the opioid epidemic and how the Fairfax County Government and its community partners are working to end it by visiting the Opioid and Substance Use Task Force webpage.