Saving Lives:Decrease Seen in Local Opioid Deaths

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has released its third quarter data on opioid-related deaths across the state.

In the first nine months of 2016 there were 1,005 confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths across the state. There are also 392-470 suspected opioid-related deaths, a pace higher than the first nine months of 2015. In 2015 the end of year totals were 1,574 unintentional opioid overdose deaths.

In the local area, Revere went from 26 deaths in 2014 to 14 deaths in 2015. Chelsea went from seven deaths in 2014 to 18 deaths in 2015. Winthrop there were three deaths in 2014 and seven deaths in 2015. In Lynn, 42 deaths were reported in 2014, increasing to 44 in 2015.

In the three area counties, Suffolk County saw an increase in deaths from 148 in 2014 to 203 in 2015. In Middlesex county there were 281 deaths in 2014 and 342 in 2015. Essex county had 213 deaths in 2014 and 236 in 2015.

As for overdoses, where the person did not die, there were 151 overdoses in 2015 in Revere when Narcan was used to reverse the effects of an opioid. Fire Chief Chris Bright said there are cases where Narcan is not used. He said if the person is conscious and alert they take them to the hospital to get checked out. If the person is not alert or unconscious Narcan is used and there are instances when the same drug user has to have Narcan used multiple times. So far this year, from January to November there have been 111 overdoses recorded by the fire department.

The decrease in deaths in Revere can be attributed to the use of Narcan. Revere was the first community in the nation to have firefighters carry Narcan. Now, as in Winthrop and Chelsea police, fire and ambulance crews all carry Narcan.

In Winthrop, CASA Director Amy Epstein was concerned with the deaths overall but she could not put finger on why Winthrop went up.

According to the DPH, which gathers its information from the Massachusetts Ambulance Trip Reporting Information System, in the first quarter of this year the age groups most touched upon were 1,545 people between the ages of 25 and 34. Across the state there were 4,103 incidents in the first quarter.

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