New York State has seen a 14% increase in opioid overdose deaths in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the County Opioid Quarterly Report released by the New York State Department of Health. The report, which is published quarterly, provides county-level data on opioid-related metrics to help inform local efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic. Acting State Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. James McDonald, stated that the opioid epidemic continues to affect all New Yorkers and that data can help inform and drive local solutions to the public health crisis.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has contributed to the increase in overdose deaths in recent years. The report also found a 12.6% increase in outpatient emergency department visits due to opioid overdoses, with 10,430 visits in 2021. There was also a 30.2% increase in outpatient emergency department visits due to opioid overdoses other than heroin, including illicitly produced opioids such as fentanyl, with 5,137 visits in 2021.
The report is authored by the State Department of Health and was established following a recommendation from the New York State Heroin and Opioid Task Force in 2016. The Department continues to support a variety of harm reduction initiatives to reduce the burden of opioid abuse and dependency statewide, including New York MATTERS, an electronic referral system for connecting persons with opioid use disorder to local treatment and harm reduction services, and over 900 registered Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs, which provide training to community members to recognize opioid overdoses and respond appropriately.
Governor Hochul also proposed launching an interagency task force to expand on the State’s harm reduction strategy options related to opioid use disorder treatment and harm reduction. The State also continues to advance 25 Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs) with over 81 sites statewide, which are considered to be at the forefront of innovation in addressing the needs of New Yorkers who use drugs and lead in the distribution of naloxone to those vulnerable to overdose.
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