DPH: Overdose deaths decreased statewide, doubled in parts of western Massachusetts

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Overdose deaths declined across the state last year, but that wasn’t the case in parts of western Massachusetts. 

The Department of Public Health found that overdose deaths decreased slightly state-wide, but those deaths doubled in one part of western Massachusetts. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recorded a one-percent decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018, almost all of them involved fentanyl. But Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties all saw significant increases in drug deaths last year. 

“I’m not a notorious nefarious heroin addict,” said Jessie Estello of Greenfield. “I’ve been there, I’ve done it. But you know what? Other people need help. I’m 53-years-old, trust me I take care of business. But other people aren’t like me, they need help.” 

From 2017 to 2018, the study found a 144 percent increase in overdose deaths in Franklin County, an 84 percent increase in Hampshire County, and a nearly 30 percent increase in Hampden County.   

The study also broke down deaths, city-by-city. They found 108 overdoses occurred in Springfield in 2018 overall, but only 80 of those people were from Springfield. 

“Numbers are a little bit skewed,” said Ryan Walsh, spokesman of the Springfield Police Department. “So, if someone came to Baystate or Mercy and died here in the city, those numbers would count against the city of Springfield.” 

Walsh said the department’s own overdose numbers don’t match up with DPH. 

“Obviously there is a heroin epidemic, there is an opioid crisis,” Walsh added. “We do see it, we just see the trends like that. The numbers our crime analysts have do not reflect anywhere near that kind of trend.” 

Springfield Police just started carrying Narcan two months ago. Walsh said officers have already saved 10 people with the drug so far. 

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