Fall River one of hardest hit cities in opioid-related overdose deaths

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has just released new data showing nearly 2,000 people statewide died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016.

As death certificates are still outstanding on many cases, the total – which currently stands at 1,933 – could go up, the state says.

With 62 overdose deaths in 2016, Fall River had the third-highest number of any municipality in the state, behind only Boston and Lowell. New Bedford was fifth on the list.

In all, 11 municipalities along the South Coast had overdose deaths.

The number of deaths in South Coast towns, most to least, in 2016:

Fall River: 62
New Bedford: 55
Taunton: 30
Attleboro: 15
Dartmouth: 9
Foxboro: 5
North Attleboro: 5
Somerset: 5
Fairhaven: 3
Freetown: 3
Swansea: 1

Fall River had 21 more deaths in 2016 than 2015, and New Bedford’s total rose by 6 year-over-year.

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Boston had 196 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, up 46 from the year before.

The medical examiner continues to confirm the cause of death on cases in 2015 and 2016, and the department says it will continue updating lists posted on the state website.

Fentanyl is a growing focus for drug-fighting forces in the state.

“In 2016, the number of fentanyl-related deaths continued to increase,” the department said in a data brief, citing 1,302 people who died testing positive for fentanyl.

The department also said that as fentanyl trends upward, the rate of overdose deaths is going down where prescription drugs or heroin were involved.