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Opioid-related OD deaths in Massachusetts up slightly

November 10, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — The number of Massachusetts residents who died of opioid-related overdoses in the first nine months of the year rose slightly compared to the same period in 2020, and Black and Latino residents continued to be disproportionately affected, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by state public health officials.

There were 1,613 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths from January through September, 21 more than during the same nine-month period last year, according to a statement from the Department of Public Health.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to be the main driver of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts, with fentanyl present in 92% of fatal overdoses through the first half of the year.

“Prior to the pandemic, opioid-related overdose death rates in Massachusetts had been stable,” acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the pandemic exacerbated the opioid crisis, particularly in communities of color which have also been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

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According to the state’s latest opioid report, the overdose rate for Black residents has increased 22 to 36 per 100,000 residents. For Hispanic residents the rate increased from 32 to 36 per 100,000.

While fatal opioid-related deaths have surged nationwide during the pandemic according to the latest preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the increase in Massachusetts was among the smallest, state authorities said.

The state continues to aggressively address the opioid epidemic and has more than doubled spending on substance misuse since 2015, Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

“We continue to invest in treatment, support, intervention, and education programs, primarily for residents experiencing the highest burden of this epidemic,” he said.