BOSTON (AP) — The number of opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts in the first nine months of the year increased slightly when compared to the same period last year, state health officials said Wednesday.

There were 1,517 confirmed and suspected opioid-related overdose deaths through the end of September, an estimated 33 more deaths than in the first nine months of 2019, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Fentanyl continues to be a factor in the deaths. The rate of fentanyl present among opioid-related overdose deaths where a toxicology report was available was 93%, according to the latest data.

The state took several measures earlier this year in response to reports of increases in overdose deaths possibly tied to isolation and other factors related to the coronavirus pandemic, including the distribution of more than 75,000 overdose-reversal kits to treatment programs, health centers, hospitals and jails, the department said.

The state also expanded telehealth services, reduced barriers to treatment, and received federal approval to permit licensed treatment programs to provide take-home doses of medications for opioid use disorder.

 

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