BOSTON (WPRI/AP) — Opioid-related deaths are continuing to decline in Massachusetts, falling about 4% from 2016 to 2018.
Despite the decline, state health officials say there were still 497 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in the first three months of 2019 — a rate of more than five deaths a day.
The Department of Public Health says the gradual decline in overall deaths comes despite the presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In 2018, fentanyl was present in the toxicology of 89% of those who died of an opioid-related overdose and had a toxicology screen.
The progress has been uneven across the state with communities like Brockton and Weymouth reporting a noticeable decline in 2018 compared to 2017. Others — like Springfield, Framingham and Lawrence — experienced noticeable increases.
Another community that also experienced a significant decline in opioid-related overdose deaths was Attleboro.
President of the Attleboro Firefighters Local 848 Paul Jacques attributes the decline to Narcan. He believes education and training make all the difference.
“One death is too many,” he said. “The more education, the more Narcan we can get out there and trained individuals to help stop this, the better.”
The number of opioid-related deaths in Rhode Island is also declining, according to the RI Department of Health.
In 2018, the department of health reported 314 people died from an overdose, which is approximately 6% less than the number the state saw in 2016.