Drug overdose death rates increased at slower pace in 2017, Health Department says

OD death rates were higher last year for black residents than white or Latino New Yorkers.

The number of people who died in New York City due to drug overdoses continued to rise in 2017, but at a dramatically slower pace, the city Health Department announced on Monday.

The increase from 1,425 deaths in 2016 to 1,487 last year is a marked decrease from the spike from 2015 to 2016, when the number of overdose deaths jumped from 942 to 1,425.

Officials said fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, was found in 57 percent of all overdose deaths, followed by heroin in 52 percent of deaths. The highest overdose death rates were found in the Hunts Point-Mott Haven and Highbridge-Morrisania neighborhoods in the South Bronx.

This was the first time in over 10 years overdose death rates were higher for black New Yorkers than white or Latino New Yorkers, according to the Health Department.

“New York City’s drug overdose epidemic continues, but the story of who is affected is changing,” acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement. “Still, the rate of increase has slowed, and we are optimistic that the many efforts of HealingNYC are moving us in the right direction. These include connecting more New Yorkers to medications for addiction treatment and lifesaving naloxone.”

In response, the city said it will distribute at least 15,000 naloxone kits to opioid overdose prevention programs in the Bronx and boost access to medications for addiction treatment at sites around the city.

Lisa L. Colangelo