Some areas of the country are showing increased rates of opioid-related deaths during the pandemic. Kentucky reported a 25% increase in overdoses in the first three months of the year, along with a spike in ED visits. West Virginia reported a 50% jump in overdose-related EMS calls in May compared to the previous year, and the national drug policy czar Jim Carroll said in a recent interview, “The pandemic has caused my level of concern to go up.”
In Massachusetts, the most recent opioid numbers
show that from January through March 2020, there were 467 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths, which is a 5.7 % decline compared to the first three months of 2019. (COVID-19 spiked in Massachusetts in April and May.)
The main takeaway is that while the healthcare system has been rightly focused on COVID-19, hospitals and other caregivers have attempted to maintain the prolonged care and treatment of those afflicted with opioid use disorder. A good example of this is from Baystate Noble Hospital, which last week distributed a total of $65,000 to address the health and social needs posed by opioid and other substance use disorders. Recipients of the one-time grants are: C.O.R.E. of Greater Westfield (Coalition for Outreach, Recovery and Education); Greater Westfield Committee for the Homeless, Inc.; Mental Health Association; and Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. The money, administered in partnership with the hospital’s Community Benefits Advisory Council, was received by the hospital as part of an FY2020 legislative earmark to focus on prevention and treatment of opioid related substance use disorders in the Greater Westfield area. Opioid and substance use disorders were identified as significant health needs in Baystate Noble Hospital’s 2019 community health needs assessment.
To read about other community benefits efforts in the state, please view MHA’s A Commitment to Community: Massachusetts Hospitals’ Community Benefit Initiatives.