Opioid deaths on the decline

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The state Department of Public Health released a report Friday showing that opioid-related deaths are down across the commonwealth over the past three quarters.

While the number of deaths is down, there are still thousands of deaths each year, and the emergence of Fentanyl, which is particularly deadly, is a growing concern.

The presence of fentanyl in toxicology reports rose nearly 90 percent in 2018, underscoring its impact impact as a “driving force behind the opioid epidemic” in Massachusetts, the release states.

County by county data show that opioid-related deaths in Dukes County dropped from a high of seven in 2015 to two in 2017, according to the report. On Nantucket, the number of deaths increased to three, from one the previous two years. Deaths by opioid overdose dropped to 67 in 2017 in Barnstable County after a high of 80 the previous year, the report states.

“The opioid epidemic is a tragic public health crisis that has taken scores of lives in our commonwealth, and while we have much work to do, there continue to be trends related to a decline in overdose deaths and a decline in the number of opioid prescriptions written by physicians,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a prepared statement. “This quarterly report provides a new level of data revealing an unsettling correlation between high levels of synthetic fentanyl present in toxicology reports and overdose death rates. It is critically important that the commonwealth understand and study this information so we can better respond to this disease and help more people. The legislation I signed earlier this month adds another set of tools to our toolkit, including requiring all emergency departments to offer medication-assisted treatment in emergency departments and extending medication-assisted treatment in correctional facilities.”

Earlier this month, Governor Baker signed An Act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction, which is the second major legislative action by the Baker-Polito administration to address the opioid crisis since taking office in 2015 — efforts widely regarded as a blueprint for the nation.

For links to the latest data, visit mass.gov/opioidresponse. To get help for a substance use disorder, visit helplinema.org or call the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline at 800-327-5050.