The most recent quarterly opioid surveillance report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health showed that opioid-related overdose deaths in-state have fallen 5 percent from their 2016 high.
Last year, overdose deaths were 2,023, versus the 2,097 reached in 2016. This is, according to the department, despite an influx of fentanyl whose presence in overdose death rates reached 93 percent between January and September 2019. Heroin and likely heroin overdose deaths have, on the contrary, been in decline since 2014. In the first nine months of 2019, their presence dropped to 25 percent. While prescription drug overdose deaths had trended downward through 2016, since then, they have remained stable, appearing in approximately 13 percent of overdose deaths.
“This report demonstrates that focused investments in substance misuse are having an impact, but there is still a lot of work to do to curb the opioid epidemic in our communities,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “We are encouraged by the expanded use of the prescription monitoring program and continued reduction of new prescriptions, and remain committed to making new investments in prevention, education, treatment, and recovery for individuals and families across the Commonwealth.”
Decreases have been seen in numerous communities as well: white non-Hispanic men, Black non-Hispanic men, and Hispanic men saw opioid-related overdose deaths fall between 2017 and 2018. However, Asian/Pacific Islander non-Hispanic men saw their rates jump during the same period.
“This report shows progress on multiple fronts, including a reduction in Schedule II opioid prescriptions,” Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said. “We must continue to invest in and focus on providing the best and most effective services and supports across the spectrum of prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery.”
In part, the state credits integration of the Prescription Monitoring Program’s Massachusetts Prescription Awareness Tool into larger Electronic Health Record systems for making checks of prescription history easier for providers.