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Opioid epidemic hits black men hardest in St. Louis County

Deaths of black men from opioid use jumped 47% in 2019 when compared to 2018
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — There’s a decrease in the overall number of opioid-related deaths in St. Louis County for 2019, but officials noted there’s a troubling trend among the numbers – deaths among black men increased.

Last year, 266 people died because of opioids, compared with 307 in 2018. This was the first year since 2012 in which the number of deaths has gone down. Ninety percent of 2019’s opioid deaths involved fentanyl.

Deaths of black men from opioid use jumped 47% in 2019 when compared to 2018. According to a press release from St. Louis County, black men were the only group to experience an increase in opioid related deaths.

The county said the numbers highlight the widening disparity in opioid-related deaths and indicates that there is a need for “unique, tailored responses.”

“The dramatic jump in opioid-related deaths of African American men is alarming,” said County Executive Dr. Sam Page. “The Department of Public Health is aggressively working on its outreach to our high-risk communities including providing access to Narcan and an education campaign on how to get help. We are committed to doing all we can to fight this epidemic.”

Page said while it is too early to assess the trends in 2020, there is concern that social isolation forced by the coronavirus pandemic is particularly dangerous for anyone who misuses opioids. He said that people who might otherwise use opioids with others, may now use them alone, which could increase the risk of overdose and death before someone can be helped.

St. Louis County’s Department of Public Heath has the ‘Anyone Can’ campaign, which addresses racial disparities in opioid-related deaths. The public awareness campaigned stresses that anyone can get help for a friend or loved one. The campaign spotlights true stories of real St. Louis area residents and how addiction has affected them. For more information, click here

The county provides free doses of Narcan, the medication that reverses opioid overdoses, at its three public health clinics, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, click here

County Executive Dr. Sam Page Press Conference

County Executive Dr. Sam Page addresses the media

Posted by County Executive Sam Page on Wednesday, June 10, 2020


Behavioral Health Response   


Behavioral Health Response provides support for mental health and substance abuse crises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


The Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator is a confidential and anonymous source of information for people seeking treatment facilities for substance abuse/addiction and/or mental health problems.

Opioid State Targeted Response

The State Targeted Response website provides a list of treatment facilities where people without health insurance can get treatment at no cost.

St. Louis County Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

The St. Louis County PDMP, operated by Saint Louis County Department of Public Health (DPH), monitors the prescribing and dispensing of schedule II-IV controlled substances to assist in the identification and prevention of prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Anyone Can Campaign

The Anyone Can campaign spreads awareness that anyone can be affected by addiction, anyone can get help for themselves or a loved one, and anyone can save a life with naloxone. The campaign also lists resources for accessing naloxone and treatment.

Talk About It Campaign

The Talk About It campaign gives parents the tools and resources they need to start vital conversations about drugs and alcohol and protect their families.

Missouri Department of Mental Health

Information about drug abuse for people struggling with addiction, families, healthcare providers, and the general public can be found on DMH's website.


You can purchase naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, without a prescription from most Missouri pharmacies. For free naloxone, contact any of these organizations:

John C. Murphy Health Center

6121 N. Hanley Rd.

Berkeley, MO 63134

Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

North Central Community Health Center

4000 Jennings Station Rd.

St. Louis, MO 63121

Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

South County Health Center

4580 South Lindbergh Blvd.

St. Louis, MO 63127

Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.



Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery (MO Network)   


St. Louis Empowerment Center   


RELATED: St. Louis-based website provides resources for substance abuse

RELATED: St. Louis County offers free naloxone to the public

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