standard Drug Deaths Down in Staten Island, But Increasing in Other Boroughs

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

The rate of drug overdose deaths in New York City increased by 41 percent over the last three years, but in Staten Island, opioid analgesic-involved overdose deaths declined 32 percent, reversing a more than 4-fold upward trend between 2005 and 2011.

The Health Department released new data today showing that, from 2010 to 2013, drug-related deaths increased from 8.2 per 100,000 New Yorkers to 11.6 per 100,000 New Yorkers. According to the new Epi Data Brief, 77 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2013 involved an opioid, including opioid analgesics (prescription painkillers), methadone, or heroin. On average, there is more than one fatal opioid overdose a day. Heroin plays an increasing role in overdose deaths in New York City, doubling from 3.1 per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2010 to 6.2 per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2013.

Patterns of opioid overdose deaths differ by borough. The Bronx had the highest rate of heroin involved overdose deaths in 2013, however, this rate more than doubled among Queens residents between 2012 and 2013.

In Staten Island, the Health Department started responding to a sharp increase in fatal opioid overdoses in 2012 by implementing a multi-pronged approach to decrease the number of fatal opioid overdoses in the borough.

“After seeing a troubling increase in opioid overdose deaths in Staten Island, the Department took an aggressive approach to save lives. Over the last two years, the Health Department educated both health care providers and residents on the risks of these highly addictive drugs, and worked with community groups, syringe access programs, and first responders to increase overdose reversals with naloxone,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “Though we have seen progress in Staten Island, there is still much more work to be done.”

“The work done on Staten Island was rolled out in partnership with the Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) Initiative, a cross-sector coalition made up of law enforcement, treatment providers, health professionals, youth and schools from across Staten Island,” said Adrienne Abbate, TYSA Director. “The release of the opioid overdose data was a wake-up call for the community. It mobilized partners from across the borough, city and state to collectively address the root causes of opioid addiction and overdose. It was the targeted and coordinated efforts of all of our partners that helped contribute to this decline.”

The Health Department will now take a similar multi-pronged approach in the Bronx, the borough with the second highest rate of opioid analgesic involved deaths, 3.2 per 100,000 residents. As part of its approach, the Health Department will visit Bronx-based health care providers to educate them about safe and judicious opioid prescribing practices, and to provide tools and resources to help implement changes.

As part of the Health Department’s efforts to reduce heroin and opioid analgesic overdose deaths in New York City, the Health Department funds 14 syringe access programs for New Yorkers who use drugs, including heroin. These programs provide counseling, education on reducing risk from drug use, and overdose prevention services. In response to increasing heroin overdose deaths, the Health Department is enhancing the capacity of syringe access programs to provide overdose prevention services in targeted areas and to reach individuals currently not receiving harm reduction services.

The Health Department also distributes naloxone to syringe access programs and other programs in New York City. This medication immediately reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkillers, and can save lives if bystanders and other first responders administer it to an overdosing person. Since 2010, more than 400 overdoses in New York City have been reversed by using naloxone. Individuals likely to witness an opioid overdose, including substance users and their friends and family, are strongly encouraged to become trained in overdose prevention and can call 311 to find out where to receive overdose prevention training and get a naloxone kit.

To promote safe and judicious opioid prescribing, the Health Department developed guidelines for general practice and for emergency departments, in conjunction with clinical advisory groups. The guidelines for emergency departments have been adopted by 38 emergency departments across New York City. The Health Department is also partnering with two hospitals in Queens – Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center – to promote safe and judicious prescribing of opioid analgesics across their hospital systems, in addition to their emergency departments.

The Health Department also promotes access to treatment for opioid addiction, including medication assisted treatment through buprenorphine and methadone. These treatments reduce the risk of overdose among people suffering from opioid addiction, and help people regain their ability to function as family members, gain employment, and lead stable lives.

Read the Epi Data Brief in full here.

For more information, search “prevent overdose” at