State Releases Updated Analysis of Opioid Epidemic

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration released an update of its Chapter 55 report, providing residents, policy makers, and public officials new information on the sweep of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts.

The Chapter 55 report was released for the first time in the fall of 2016 and is the only report in the nation to analyze more than 20 data sets from across state government and present new estimates of the percentage of Massachusetts residents with an opioid use disorder. The Baker-Polito Administration has doubled state spending on addiction and has used data from the Chapter 55 reports to direct its efforts to support communities and residents hardest hit by the epidemic.

“The Chapter 55 report is a helpful tool for us to continue learning more about the many factors fueling the opioid epidemic,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Massachusetts has led the way implementing first in the nation laws on prescription limits and mandating prescriber education, and our administration is committed to using this type of data to target our resources in the most effective and efficient way to respond to this crisis and support those communities and residents that are most severely impacted by it.”

The 100-page analysis reviews data trends from 2011 to 2015 and provides an overview of residents at greatest risk of both fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses. It also provides estimates and details risks associated with non-fatal opioid overdoses, and examines how continued use of prescription opioids is associated with opioid-related deaths.

“Chapter 55 has allowed for a more complete picture of the epidemic here in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “Understanding all of the contours of this complex public-health crisis gives us the context and information we need to adjust and refine our efforts to target resources and prioritize our interventions.”

Among the report’s key findings:

• In 2015, it was estimated that more than 4% of Massachusetts residents age 11 and older had opioid-use disorder (by comparison, 8% of Massachusetts residents are diagnosed with diabetes);

• Non-fatal overdoses between 2001 and 2015 increased approximately 200%, and the total number of non-fatal overdoses during that time exceeded 65,000;

• Compared to the general population, those who received three months of prescribed opioids in 2011 were four times as likely to die from opioid-related causes within one year, and 30 times more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose within five years; and

• Not since the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s has Massachusetts seen such a sharp increase in a single category of deaths.

“This report underscores the importance of pulling together many sources of information that we were unable to link prior to the enactment of the Chapter 55 law,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “This has added to our awareness of where the burden of the epidemic falls the hardest. That knowledge is crucial because only by knowing where the needs exist can we address them most effectively.”

Among residents with increased risk of both non-fatal and fatal opioid-related overdoses, the report found that:

• The risk of opioid-related overdose death for people who have experienced homelessness is up to 30 times higher than it is for the rest of the population;

• In 2015, nearly 50% of all deaths among those released from incarceration were opioid-related;

• The risk of a fatal opioid-related overdose is six times higher for a person diagnosed with a serious mental illness and three times higher for those diagnosed with depression; and

• 82% of mothers who overdosed during pregnancy or within the first year post-partum had a diagnosis of depression.

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