Middlesex DA Marian Ryan concerned about uptick in overdose deaths

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan speaks before the Drug Story Theater performance. JULIA MALAKIE / LOWELL SUN
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WOBURN – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan on Thursday released a public service announcement to raise awareness about an increase in opioid deaths and to offer advice.

In Middlesex County, between Oct. 14 and Nov. 16 there were 17 overdose deaths, six ​of which occurred over last weekend.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a nationwide increase in feelings of isolation and stress. Today, more than ever, community assistance is critical for individuals struggling with substance use disorders,” Ryan said in prepared statement. “In Middlesex County we continue to work virtually to build a network of support and resources for those working on the frontlines and for friends and families.

“The news this week of a statewide uptick in overdose deaths is deeply concerning. Although  the decline in fatal overdose numbers which we have seen for the past few years continues, any cluster of overdoses signals a need to take preventive action,” she continued. “As we head into another weekend and the Thanksgiving holiday, we want to remind people to remain vigilant. Help is available and many organizations have found ways to continue to offer critical services virtually or while using appropriate public health protocols.”

The Sun published a story on page 1 Thursday from the State House News Service showing that statewide an estimated 33 more people died from opioid overdoses in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to new data from the Department of Public Health.

The 1,517 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths through September represent a 2% increase from the deaths logged from January through September of 2019, the State House News Reported.

Overdoses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a public health crisis that has rattled the economy, kept many people in their homes for weeks or longer, and disrupted the way all types of services and care are delivered.

If the increase holds through the rest of 2020, it would mark a break from a recent run of declining overdose deaths year to year.

Ryan is urging the community and loved ones of individuals struggling with substance use to increase their contact with people who are known to be using heroin or other controlled substances. Ryan acknowledges it’s difficult to make in-person visits, but it’s still important to stay connected through phone calls and by making virtual connections. Also, check that Narcan is readily available.

The statewide Helpline offers free and confidential services at 800-327-5050, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Helpline is also open on all holidays.

Narcan is available at any pharmacy without a prescription. Learn more here.

Over the last month, fatal overdoses have occurred in the Middlesex County communities of Bedford, Burlington, Everett, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Maynard, Medford, Somerville, Watertown, Wayland, Westford and Woburn.