HCN News & Notes

Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Fall Nearly 11% in Massachusetts Compared to 2018

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts continue to decline, falling nearly 11% in the first six months of 2019 compared to the first six months of 2018, according to preliminary data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). In the first six months of 2019, there were 938 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts — 112 fewer than the 1,050 deaths between January and June of 2018, the latest quarterly report shows.

The decline in opioid-related overdose deaths is occurring despite the persistent presence of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. The presence of fentanyl has risen to an all-time high. In the first quarter of 2019, fentanyl was present in 92% of opioid-related overdose deaths where there was a toxicology screen. In 2018, fentanyl was present in 89% of opioid-related overdose deaths where there was a toxicology screen. 

“Despite the battle we continue to fight against fentanyl’s presence in Massachusetts, the overall decrease in the first half of this year marks continued progress in decreasing opioid-related overdose deaths,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “We were pleased to work with our colleagues in the Legislature to invest more than $246 million this year in prevention, treatment, recovery, and education solutions to the opioid epidemic and remain committed to working with all levels of law enforcement on removing fentanyl from Massachusetts communities.”

The 2018 opioid-related overdose death rate also fell an estimated 4% from 2016, from 30.5 per 100,000 people to 29.4.

“The data is a promising indicator that our investment in a multi-pronged, multi-year strategy to increase access to treatment for this complex disease and underlying co-occurring illnesses is helping to save lives,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “We must remain committed as a Commonwealth to employing every tool we have at our disposal to reduce the impact of opioid addiction and overdose deaths and to provide hope and recovery.”