Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic, the latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.

With the sharp increase in drug overdose deaths during the pandemic, this handbook developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is especially timely. At 18 pages, it’s organized for a quick read, with insights and advice from health care executives and quality improvement leaders from four different health systems representing urban, suburban and rural settings.

“The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. “As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences.”

Contributors share their experiences engaging stakeholders, working across interdisciplinary teams, leveraging data to inform efforts and implementing training and education. The handbook is supplemented by a series of short video interviews with local health care leaders that describe these strategies in more detail.