For Immediate Release - October 21, 2015

MASS DPH Releases Updated 2014 And 2015 Opioid-Related Overdose Data

Epidemic Continues to Impact Massachusetts

BOSTON – Overall opioid deaths remained high in the first six months of 2015, with overdose deaths for 2014 in line with what was previously estimated, according to new opioid overdose data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health today.

DPH released the new estimated 2015 data, as well as updated totals for 2014, as part of an ongoing commitment by the Baker-Polito administration for greater transparency and data information around the opioid epidemic. The number of confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths for 2014 (1089) represents a 63% increase over 2012 (668) and a 20% increase over cases for 2013 (911).

The first three months of data in 2015, while still preliminary, suggests more overdose deaths than the same period last year. DPH analysts included early estimates for April – June of 2015 in the report, figures that are anticipated to change over the next several months as the department receives additional data and information.

The updated data is available now at

“This data reminds us that we need to use every tool at our disposal to fight back against this public health crisis, which continues to have a drastic impact in all corners of the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our proposed legislation introduces much-needed reforms to create new pathways to treatment and help us fight the deadly opioid epidemic.”

In June, the Governor’s Opioid Working Group released 65 recommendations and an Action Plan aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. The short and long-term recommendations focus on Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery Support.

“We must treat this epidemic for what it is – a public health epidemic,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “This administration’s commitment to treating the illness with prevention, treatment, intervention, and support efforts, alongside stakeholders from throughout the state, remains a critical priority.”

Under the leadership of the Baker Administration, the Department of Public Health has developed and implemented a predictive modeling technique to provide estimates of opioid overdose deaths that include confirmed cases and those that are probable but not yet confirmed by the Medical Examiner. Analysts continually improve and revise both the model and the estimates as more final determinations become available. Opioid data will be released on a quarterly basis.

In June, the state launched an $800,000 TV, online, and social media campaign to raise awareness among parents about the problem of prescription opioid addiction, and will launch a follow-up campaign focused on decreasing stigma this fall.

“One critical instrument we have to combat this deadly disease is information,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. “We know that this epidemic remains a deadly reality for too many, and our treatment of it must remain a top priority across all sectors of government, including public health, healthcare, public safety, and education.”

Working Group initiatives opioid epidemic action plan update  pdf format of opioid epidemic action plan update
docx format of                             Substance Use Legislation Letter                completed or actively underway include:

  • Adding 194 new treatment beds in five communities (Quincy, Plymouth, New Bedford, Boston, Westborough and Fall River) with another  64 beds coming online in Greenfield by December
  • Redesigning the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) tool to increase usability. Vendor selected and work is beginning
  • Holding Drug Take-Back Day at 133 sites across the Commonwealth to collect unused prescription drugs for safe disposal
  • Passing legislation requiring pharmacists to enter data into the PMP within one business day (24 hours) instead of within 7 days of receipt of prescription
  • Naming of Drug Formulary Commission.
  • Reinforcing the requirement that all DPH licensed addiction treatment programs accept patients who are on methadone or buprenorphine medication
  • Planning for the transfer of women civilly committed under Section 35 to MCI Framingham to Taunton State Hospital by Spring 2016
  • Issuance of Division of Insurance guidelines to commercial insurers on the implementation of the substance use disorder recovery law which requires covering the cost of medically necessary clinical stabilization services for up to 14 days without prior authorization
  • Improving affordability of naloxone through bulk purchasing
  • Strengthening the residential recovery programs by rate increases retroactive to July 1st
  • Agreement by the Commonwealth’s four medical schools to develop a shared curriculum for medical students, so they can understand best practices for opioid use for pain management.