FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2024

CONTACT:
Tom Flanagan, Massachusetts Medical Society, tflanagan@mms.org

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released new data today on the number of overdose-related deaths in Massachusetts in 2023. This data shows that there have been an estimated 2,125 overdose deaths in 2023, a 10 percent decrease compared to the 2,357 estimated overdose deaths in 2022.

Legislation currently pending before Massachusetts lawmakers  (H.1981, S.1242)  would give municipalities looking for new harm reduction tools the authority to establish overdose prevention centers (OPCs). The bills — sponsored by Representatives Marjorie Decker, Dylan Fernandes, and Senator Julian Cyr — are backed by Massachusetts for Overdose Prevention Centers (MA4OPC), a statewide coalition of more than 30 organizations committed to establishing overdose prevention centers in Massachusetts.

“The creation of overdose prevention centers in the state is the next logical way to save lives. The 2,125 people who died of overdose were parents, siblings, and friends. We need to open these centers now and start saving lives now. Every day wasted is another life loss,” said Lynn Wencus, a parent of loss.

“The decrease in overdose deaths is a testament to the hard work and diligence by front-line health care workers, community advocates and – above all – those directly affected by substance use disorders. At the same time, it is hard not to think of how many more lives we could save if we had overdose prevention centers. Health care providers are trying to care for patients while being deprived of the state-of-the-art, evidence-based harm reduction tools that have been proven to work. Massachusetts will still see many unnecessary deaths from overdose until we establish overdose prevention centers,” said Dr. Jose Dominguez, Physician in Psychiatry, CIR/SEIU Leader.

“While it is encouraging to see a decline in overdose deaths, the health care community cannot and will not relax our efforts to eliminate preventable overdose deaths and increase access to pathways to treatment and recovery for all patients, especially those who are vulnerable and historically marginalized,” Dr. Hugh Taylor, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said. “We must continue to lean on established evidence-based medical and public health interventions and harm-reduction tools, including overdose prevention centers, which are proven to save lives.”

There is continued support for OPCs in Massachusetts: The Healey administration has recognized OPCs as an effective tool to save lives, releasing a Massachusetts Department of Public Health feasibility report that recommends legislative action to codify legal and professional liability protections so that these facilities may become a reality in the Commonwealth. The American Medical Association recently recommended OPCs as a meaningful way to help end the overdose epidemic. In April, three labor unions representing more than 100,000 Massachusetts workers, including health care workers, human service workers and educators, and interns and resident physicians across the Commonwealth, announced their support for OPCs. And, according to a recent Beacon Research poll released by MA4OPC, 70 percent of Massachusetts voters support passing state legislation to allow cities and towns to establish overdose prevention centers.

For more information about the MA4OPC Coalition, visit https://ma4opc.org