By Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2020

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts health officials said Wednesday the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts fell an estimated 5% from its 2016 peak.

The decline comes despite the growing presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl as a driver of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In 2019, the opioid-related overdose death rate was 29 per 100,000 people. In 2016, it was 30.5 per 100,000 people.

According to the report, there were 2,023 confirmed and estimated opioid-related overdose deaths in 2019. For the same period in 2016, there were 2,097 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said the latest information “demonstrates that focused investments in substance misuse are having an impact, but there is still a lot of work to do to curb the opioid epidemic in our communities.”

The presence of fentanyl in the toxicology of opioid-related overdose deaths remains high at 93% from January through September of last year.

The percentage of opioid-related overdose deaths where prescription drugs were present declined from 2014 through 2016, and has remained stable since. Prescription opioids were present in about 13% of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2019.

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