For Immediate Release - August 22, 2017


Data Shows Epidemic Has Affected Every Racial, Socioeconomic, Gender, and Age Group in the Commonwealth; Opioid-Related Hospital Discharges Increased in Every Region from 2011 to 2015

BOSTON – Tuesday, August 22, 2017 – Today, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) released a chart pack updating the findings of the HPC’s Opioid Use Disorder Report, published in September 2016. That report, required by Chapter 258 of the Acts of 2014, evaluated the impact of the opioid epidemic on the health care system and issued four key recommendations. The HPC recommended that the Commonwealth should systematically track the impact of the opioid epidemic on the health care system and the availability of evidence-based pharmacologic treatment; increase access to and effectiveness of evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment by integrating pharmacologic interventions into systems of care; support coordinated, multi-stakeholder coalitions to address the impact of the opioid epidemic locally; and test, evaluate, and scale innovative care models for preventing and treating opioid use disorder and related conditions.

In July, the HPC released a portion of this data focused on the rate of change in opioid-related hospital discharges between 2011 and 2015.

Key findings from the chart pack released today include:

  • In 2015, Massachusetts residents collectively lost 60,000 years of life due to poisonings (i.e., opioid-related pre-mature death), when measured by years of potential life lost before age 75.
  • In 2015, the Berkshires and Metro South had the highest rates of opioid-related hospital discharges per population with over 1,300 discharges per 100,000 population each, while East Merrimack and Central Massachusetts had the highest growth in opioid-related hospital discharges (121% and 104%, respectively) from 2011 to 2015.
  • Residents living in the lowest-income areas experienced the highest rate of growth of opioid-related discharges between 2011 and 2015 (72%) and, despite accounting for only 25% of the Commonwealth’s population, accounted for 36% of all opioid-related discharges in 2015.
  • Non-Hispanic Whites had both the highest rate of opioid-related discharges in 2015 (10.5 discharges per 1,000 population), and the highest growth rate from 2011 to 2015 (59%), though other populations also had substantial growth. During this time period, opioid-related discharges grew 47% among Hispanic residents and 30% among non-Hispanic Blacks/African Americans.
  • In 2015, public payers covered 76.1% of all opioid-related hospital discharges, a slight increase from 74.2% in 2011.

“These data illustrate that the opioid epidemic continues to affect Massachusetts residents at an alarming rate, contributing to staggering premature death rates and growing hospital utilization. While unsettling, these findings help the state better understand the epidemic, informing continued efforts to ensure patients have access to timely and evidence-based treatment.”

-- David Seltz, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission


The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) is an independent state agency that develops policy to reduce health care cost growth and improve the quality of patient care. The HPC's mission is to advance a more transparent, accountable, and innovative health care system through its independent policy leadership and investment programs. The HPC’s goal is better health and better care – at a lower cost – across the Commonwealth.

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