FILE: Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills

(The Center Square) – Overdose deaths are on the rise in Massachusetts, state officials said.

The state Department of Public Health has released new preliminary data that shows opioid-related overdose deaths rose 8.8% in 2021 compared to the previous year. The numbers, according to the department, are still lower than the national average, but are contributed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasingly poisoned drug supply, and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“Tackling the opioid epidemic remains an urgent priority for our administration, which is why we have worked with the Legislature to quadruple funding for substance addiction treatment and prevention, but we know there is more work to do,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in the release. “Today’s report underscores the harmful impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and the scourge of fentanyl have had on those struggling with addiction, and we are committed to continuing our work with the Legislature and our colleagues in the addiction and recovery community to boost access to services and treatment.”

In 2021, according to the release, the state saw 2,290 confirmed and estimated overdose deaths that are contributed to opioids. In addition, the department estimates there were an additional 185 cases of overdose death than in 2020.

Preliminary data, according to the release, there have been 551 confirmed and estimated opioid-related deaths for the first three months of this year. That number represents a 4% decrease from the same timeframe last year.

According to the release, fentanyl has been a constant occurrence in opioid-related overdose deaths in the state, and preliminary data illustrates the drug was found in 93% of cases where a toxicology report was performed.

The Baker administration’s focus on the opioid epidemic, according to the release, feature a fiscal year 2023 budget proposal that includes $543.8 million in funding for harm reduction, treatment, and recovery programs, while supporting those struggling with addiction and prescription drug monitoring.

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.