State data reveals groups hardest hit by opioid overdose deaths

State data reveals groups hardest hit by opioid overdose deaths

The number of opioid-related overdose deaths in MA fell an estimated 8.3 percent from 2016 to 2017, marking the first year-over-year decline in several years, the Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

"It is a promising trend that for the first time previous year we saw overdose deaths actually decrease", Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in a statement.

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 percent decrease.

A separate report on opioid abuse found non-fatal overdoses in MA soared by almost 200 percent from 2011 to 2015, with the number of non-fatal overdoses during that period exceeding 65,000.

The downward trend follows a number of aggressive initiatives by the Gov. Charlie Baker Administration to reduce the amount of opioids being prescribed for pain management, and to help people struggling with addiction.

The Republican governor called on the legislature to act quickly on a bill he announced in November that he said increases access to treatment, and strengthens prevention efforts.

Meanwhile, deaths from the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl continue to increase, even as the presence of heroin in opioid-related fatalities has declined.

The state agency said it expects to confirm another 400 to 500 additional overdose-related deaths in 2017, which could push up the final estimate for a year ago. The proposal, which lawmakers are vetting, builds on the 2016 legislation Baker signed that put a seven-day limit - the first in the nation - on initial opioid prescriptions, as well as revamped the state's prescription monitoring system and upped penalties for fentanyl trafficking.

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