The announcement, in late April, stunned many: that last year’s number of opiate overdose deaths in Massachusetts had topped 1,000. Now the state Department of Public Health has revised that estimate — and it’s even worse than initially reported.
Now, 1,256 is the latest estimate of men and women whose deaths last year are attributed to a fatal dose of heroin or an opioid-based painkiller. That’s nearly four people a day statewide. Two dozen cities and towns had 10 or more overdoses (see the table at the bottom of this post). Some municipalities saw a three- or fourfold increase in overdose deaths, as compared with 2013.
“We are fighting this disease with every approach available, including better analysis of where and why people succumb to the disease,” Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement.
Baker created an opioid working group soon after taking office. That group’s report, issued in June, includes 65 recommendations. The administration has launched an ad campaign, and made naloxone, a drug that restores breathing after an overdose, more available. The first increase in one critical need, treatment beds, is expected in Greenfield later this year.
The state increased the initially estimated overdose death count after completing more autopsies and adjusting the prediction model based on this new confirmed death tally. The individual city and town numbers are based on actual deaths, and have not yet been revised. They are expected to rise by at least 209 deaths.
And there’s no sign the onslaught of heroin deaths is letting up. An estimated 312 people died of a suspected overdose in the first three months of this year, the Department of Public Health said.