Larnell Robinson sat at a desk in his cluttered office last September, between a bookshelf full of Bibles and a table stacked with the overdose antidote Narcan. He slid out a list of residents of the West Baltimore high-rise where he was tenant council president — one of dozens of subsidized complexes that house the city’s poor seniors. One by one, he began scratching through names, conducting a grim accounting of the dead.

William, 63, killed by fentanyl and found in his ninth-floor unit in February 2023. Richard, 61, discovered in an apartment with multiple drugs in his system two and a half weeks later. David, 68, three days after that, also dead from fentanyl.

And then 59-year-old Glenn, who had lived on Mr. Robinson’s floor for years. Known for his willingness to run errands for others, he often biked to the store to get Mr. Robinson cigarettes. But after not seeing Glenn for a day, Mr. Robinson stuck a flier in his door. When it was still there the next morning, he summoned security.

This was one death, Mr. Robinson said later, that he couldn’t bear to witness. “I feel like I work at the morgue sometimes,” he said in an interview.

A man in a teal polo shirt siting at a wooden desk.
Larnell Robinson at his office in the Rosemont Tower complex in Baltimore. Fifteen people over the age of 50 have fatally overdosed in the building since 2018.Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner, for The New York Times

Over the past six years, as Baltimore has endured one of America’s deadliest drug epidemics, overdoses have fallen surprisingly hard on one group: Black men currently in their mid-50s to early 70s. While just 7 percent of the city’s population, they account for nearly 30 percent of drug fatalities — a death rate 20 times that of the rest of the country.

A generation devastated by drugs

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

By Molly Cook Escobar

Drug deaths among Baltimore’s Black men

Note: Chart shows two-year rolling averages. Drug overdoses for those under 15 years of age and older than 90 are not shown.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

By Molly Cook Escobar, Scott Reinhard and Nick Thieme

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