HCN News & Notes

State’s Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Fell by More Than 8{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2017

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined in 2017 by an estimated 8.3{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} compared to 2016. This is the first time in several years there has been a year-over-year decline, according to the quarterly report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. This is the third consecutive quarterly report where the number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths declined.

“While there is still a lot of work to do, this report is encouraging news that gives us hope that we are beginning to bend the curve of this epidemic,’’ said Gov. Charlie Baker. “As a Commonwealth, we must continue our aggressive efforts to combat the opioid and fentanyl crisis. And I urge the Legislature to pass our CARE Act, which expands access to treatment, and ask lawmakers to take swift action on legislation to crack down on the fentanyl trade. The data makes clear that we must give law enforcement every possible chance to track down this terrible drug and hold accountable those who sell it.”

The total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017 was 1,977, which is 178 fewer deaths than the 2,155 estimated and confirmed deaths in 2016, or an 8.3{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} decrease. In previous years, the year-over-year comparisons showed increases in opioid-related overdose deaths; the estimated opioid-related overdose death rate in 2016 increased by 22{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} from 2015, there was a 30{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} increase in 2015 from the prior year, and in 2014, there was a 39{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} increase from 2013.

“We continue to take affirmative steps to address the opioid crisis in Massachusetts. It is a promising trend that, for the first time last year, we saw overdose deaths actually decrease,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Today’s report is a welcome development; however, there is so much more work to do to increase access to treatment.”