Best of the Week


AP: Overdose deaths for Black American soar during pandemic

Natisha Stansberry cries as she holds a locket of her child close to her chest in St. Louis on Monday, May 17, 2021. Stanberry was a victim of childhood sexual assault and her brother was murdered. She was told during a drug test that rat poison and fentanyl were found in her urine test when she went to Assisted Recovery Centers of America for help with her drug addiction. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


The work of Kentucky-based enterprise writer Claire Galofaro, Atlanta photographer Brynn Anderson and Boston video journalist Rodrique Ngowi made AP first to report on how the pandemic exacerbated the spread of opioid addiction among Black Americans. Their story focused on St. Louis, bringing to light a new consequence of the coronavirus and racial injustice, major themes of the past year, showing that the pandemic accelerated a trend that was already in the works: The spread of opioid addiction from mostly rural, white communities to more urban, Black neighborhoods.

The reporting placed this trend squarely in a history of drug addiction in America that has long discriminated against Black people, and described how even today, the best drug abuse treatment is more accessible to white people than to Black people. As one doctor put it, the soaring death rate from drug addiction has become a civil rights issue as pressing and profound as any other.

The story was sensitively told in text, photos and video, with poignant details, including one mother fearing her son’s overdose death for so long that she paid for his funeral in monthly installments. The care taken in telling this story was rewarded with AP’s second-highest reader engagement metrics of the day.

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