Policy Issue

Policy Watch: Alarming Increase in Overdose Deaths Among Black Males

November 22, 2021

The latest opioid overdose and opioid-related EMS incident data is now available from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Opioid overdose fatality data is published by sex and race, highlighting a concerning trend; The age-adjusted fatality rate for Black non-Hispanic males nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020, reaching a record high of 57.1 deaths per 100k from 32.6 deaths per 100k the year prior. Black non-Hispanic males had previously experienced lower fatality rates than White non-Hispanic males and Hispanic males for years, but the spike in 2020 brought them more in line with these other groups. In 2020, the fatality rate was highest in Hispanic males at 59.8 deaths per 100k. The fatality rate tends to be much lower among Asian/Pacific Islander males and females overall.

Statewide, the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths has fluctuated but has remained largely stable since 2016. This timing coincides with the rising prevalence of fentanyl in overdose deaths among Massachusetts residents.

In MetroWest, opioid-related deaths of residents and in MetroWest communities largely followed state trends, ending 2020 with slightly more deaths than 2019. A handful of communities report more incidents in the first two quarters of 2021 than in the same quarters in 2020, but incident totals are generally on par with previous years. 

MetroWest-specific data can be found on our website.

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