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Opioid deaths decline nearly 6 percent in first quarter; Lowell cited

BOSTON MA. – APRIL 24: Monica Bharel MD, MPH
Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, battled the Coronavirus and returned to the State House. She addresses the media about dealing with Covid-19 during a meeting at the Gardner Auditorium. April 24, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo By Jim Mahoney)
BOSTON MA. – APRIL 24: Monica Bharel MD, MPH Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, battled the Coronavirus and returned to the State House. She addresses the media about dealing with Covid-19 during a meeting at the Gardner Auditorium. April 24, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Jim Mahoney)
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BOSTON – A total of 467 people died of confirmed or estimated opioid overdose deaths in the first three months of 2020, according to new state data, representing a 5.7 percent decline from the same period in 2019.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel presented the figures at a Wednesday morning Public Health Council meeting.

Bharel highlighted Gardner, Melrose, Lowell, Taunton and Worcester as communities that had experienced a notable decrease in opioid overdose deaths from 2018 to 2019.

Somerville, Beverly, Attleboro, Revere, Brockton, New Bedford and Pittsfield, meanwhile, experienced notable increases in overdose deaths.

Bharel acknowledged “ongoing inequities” reflected in the overdose data. The death rate for Black and Hispanic men rose between 2018 and 2019, while the rate decreased for white and Asian/Pacific Islander men.

Men account for 74 percent of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts.

“We see these inequities in our work, and know trends like this are part of the reason that many are protesting now,” she said. “We continue to meet with advocates and minority provider representatives to address these disparities in the minority population served by our substance use disorder treatment systems.”

This is a developing story.