Massachusetts tracked a "problematic" rise in its opioid overdose death rate from 2020 to 2021, the state's public health commissioner said Wednesday.
Commissioner Margret Cooke presented the latest overdose data at a Public Health Council meeting, telling members that the death rate per 100,000 residents rose to 32.6 last year.
"This, very unfortunately, is a 9% increase over 2020," Cooke said. "And while 9% is significantly lower than the national trends, it is problematic for Massachusetts and for our country."
Preliminary 2022 data -- which includes both confirmed opioid overdose deaths and those estimated through a modeling process -- offer some "slightly encouraging" news, Cooke said.
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The estimated number of deaths for the first three months of the year is 4% lower than the same period in 2021, she said, while acknowledging the early figures are likely to change as more complete information becomes available.
Cooke said the latest data show continued high presence of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl in fatal overdoses and pointed out what she called "concerning trends" when looking at the deaths by gender, race and ethnicity.
She said the 2021 opioid-related overdose death rate for American Indian/Alaskan Native residents was more than three times higher than the state average, and highlighted a partnership between the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and UMass Boston's Institute for New England Native American Studies that focuses on culturally appropriate education and prevention.