The pandemic has caused drug overdose deaths among Black Americans to surge, as drugs like fentanyl proliferate in communities facing subpar social services and the economic consequences of COVID-19, the Associated Press reports. Despite the perception that the opioid crisis primarily affects white rural communities, the crisis has long afflicted Black neighborhoods previously devastated by the war on drugs. In Missouri, Black men are now four times more likely than a white person to die of an overdose. Dr. Kanika Turner said the disparity constitutes a “civil rights issue” compounded by mass incarceration, as Black Americans are more likely to be in jail for drug crimes and less likely to access treatment than other demographic groups.
More than 92,000 Americans died of overdose in the 12 months ending in November — the highest number ever recorded, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These numbers come as many Americans struggle to access and afford treatment. In the Black neighborhoods hit hardest by the crisis, mobile parking lot units and churches are attempting to help drug users by handing out Narcan on streets and visiting prisons to prepare incarcerated people for re-entry.