For Immediate Release - January 20, 2016

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

Data includes demographic information for the first time

(Boston) – Overall opioid deaths remained high in the first nine months of 2015, according to new opioid overdose data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health today.

DPH released new estimated 2015 data, updated totals for 2014, and initial demographic information for 2015 as part of an ongoing commitment by the Baker-Polito administration to increase transparency and data sharing as part of a comprehensive effort to combat the opioid epidemic. The number of confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths for 2014 (1099) represents a 65% increase over 2012 (668) and a 21% increase over cases for 2013 (911).

The first nine months of preliminary data for 2015 (January 2015 – September 2015) suggests a higher number of overdose deaths than the same period in 2014. Estimates for 2015 are anticipated to change over the next several months as the Department receives additional information, including final causes of death from the medical examiner’s office. The most up-to-date data is available now at mass.gov/statewithoutstigma.

“We must take bold action to eradicate the opioid epidemic and help those struggling with addiction get the help they need,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration has aggressively implemented numerous reforms and offered legislation to target the drivers of this public health crisis, and we will continue making investments and working with the legislature to curb substance misuse and support our communities.”

In June 2015, the Governor’s Opioid Working Group released 65 recommendations and a comprehensive Action Plan aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. These short and long-term recommendations focus on Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery Support. To date, about two-thirds of the Action Plan items are either complete or underway. In addition, for the first time, this report breaks down the demographics of those who have overdosed on opioids in the first nine months of 2015. 

“We now know that three quarters of those impacted by opioid overdose in the Commonwealth are men, the vast majority are Caucasian, and are between 25 and 44 years of age,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “The best way to prevent these tragedies is to limit access to these powerful medications and to increase education about the side effects and dangers.”

Over the past year, DPH analysts have developed and implemented a predictive modeling approach to provide estimates of opioid overdose deaths that include confirmed cases, as well as those that are probable but not yet confirmed by the Medical Examiner. Analysts have continually improved and revised both the model and the estimates as more final determinations become available. Opioid data will continue to be released on a quarterly basis.

“This epidemic continues to impact families across our Commonwealth,” said Dr. Monica Bharel, Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. “And like with any illness, we need to continue to use the strength of data to bring together stakeholders, including those from law enforcement, public health, healthcare, education, and the recovery community, if we are going to turn the tide on this deadly disease.”

Recent Working Group initiatives completed or actively underway include:

  • Adding over 250 new treatment beds across the state, including the opening of Section 35 beds at Taunton State Hospital so no woman is committed to a correctional facility when treatment for addiction is needed;
  • Expanding community based treatment services including OBOT and recovery coaches in emergency rooms;
  • Redeveloping the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) online system, now available to medical residents, with new interconnectivity to neighboring states for launch in the summer of 2016;
  • The commitment of $3.5M by the Health Policy Commission to improve the care of patients with neonatal abstinence syndrome;
  • Reinforcing requirements that all DPH licensed addiction treatment programs must accept patients who are on medication-assisted treatment (MAT). In August 2015, DPH announced a $3M federal grant to expand the availability of MAT for pregnant women with opioid use disorder;
  • Issuance of Division of Insurance guidelines to commercial insurers on the implementation of the substance use disorder recovery law (Chapter 258) which requires insurers to cover the cost of medically necessary clinical stabilization services for up to 14 days without prior authorization;
  • Attorney General Maura Healey’s negotiation of  $325,000 to offset the cost of naloxone for all Massachusetts communities through the state’s bulk purchasing system;
  • The Commonwealth’s billboard and social media awareness campaign, launched  in November, called  #statewithoutstigMA. So far, the campaign has gathered nearly 50,000 ad clicks and over 750,000 video views;
  • In January, the Baker-Polito administration distributed close to $8M in federal and local grants to health care entities and municipalities to create programs to prevent addiction and arm themselves with life-saving naloxone;
  • Strengthening the state’s commitment to residential recovery programs through contractual changes including rate increases effective to July 1, 2015;
  • An agreement by the Commonwealth’s four medical schools and the Massachusetts Medical Society to develop a first-in-the-nation set of core competencies for all of the medical school’s curriculum for medical students, ensuring best practices for prescription drug use and management are taught; and a similar agreement for core competencies for dental schools;
  • DPH starting voluntary certification of sober homes in January for the first time in the Commonwealth.

 

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