Opioid Deaths Rise Slightly After Nine Months

HYANNIS – According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), opioid-related overdose deaths in the state have seen a slight increase for the first time in nine months of this year compared to the same in 2019.

The first nine months of 2020 saw 1,517 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, an estimated 33 more deaths than in the first nine months of 2019.

The DPH said that the estimated uptick coincides with the public health challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic that led the state to enact overdose prevention efforts, including expanding telehealth services, reducing barriers to treatment, expanding naloxone distribution, and receiving federal approval to permit licenses treatment programs to provide take-home doses of medications for opioid use disorders.

“As we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to continuing our work to address the opioid crisis and support our residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker in a statement.

“We recognize that the stress, anxiety and social isolation brought on by COVID-19 can be especially hard on those dealing with substance use disorder and we remain focused on serving those in need with our multi-pronged strategy to overdose prevention treatments, services, and supports.”

The DPH distributed more than 75,000 naloxone kits from March through September to opioid treatment programs, community health centers, hospital emergency departments, and houses of correction.

In August, the DPH also received a two-year $113.9 million federal grant to continue its response to the opioid epidemic and expand treatment.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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