Deaths from drug overdoses are surging in New York state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as opioid-related fatalities sharply increase over the last decade, a report released Tuesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found.
The report is the latest data point showing the parallel public health fight over opioid and drug usage amid the societal upheaval of the last several years across New York. Increasingly, more of these deaths have involved opioids, and are killing New Yorkers at an increased rate across all demographics.
Fatalities from drug overdoses have increased across the country during the pandemic despite millions of dollars in legal settlements from manufacturers sent to states who have dealt with the fallout from addiction over the last generation.
“Too many New Yorkers have died from the misuse of drugs, but the jump in these numbers is alarming. It is a tragedy that devastates families and impacts our communities in countless ways,” DiNapoli said. “The data shows our battle against drug overdose deaths is far from over. State leaders must ensure an ongoing commitment of public resources and strategies, including new funding from legal settlements, and innovative, evidence-based solutions for the fight against this deadly epidemic to be effective.”
The report found opioid-related deaths have increased by 68% to almost 5,000 people in New York from 2019 to 2021. The vast majority of these deaths, 85%, involved either fentanyl or a similar synthetic opioid.
Statewide, all drug overdoses resulted in 5,841 deaths, surpassing the 2017 record of more than 1,700 fatalities.
Last year, 30 New Yorkers per 100,000 died from drug overdoses and 25 per 100,000 died from overdoses involving opioids.
Deaths among Black New Yorkers increased fivefold, quadrupled among Hispanic or Latino residents and nearly tripled among white New Yorkers.
Dutchess County led the state in 2020 with 43 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Niagara County, the Bronx and Monroe County.
“The shocking news in State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report on overdose deaths between 2019 and 2021 simply reconfirms the need for an all-out effort to mitigate this crisis,” said state Sen. Pete Harckham, chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “That means giving proper resources and support to stakeholders and those on the frontlines of Substance Use Disorder treatment, recovery, overdose prevention and harm reduction, so we can work together and save the lives of our loved ones and neighbors.”
New York officials have sought to ease the crisis by making naloxone, a substance that counteracts the effects of an overdose, more widely available.
Gov. Kathy Hochul last week approved a new law requiring public college and university campuses to carry a supply of it. During the summer, state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett signed an order requiring pharmacies to carry naloxone.
“The first step in addressing a problem is understanding it, and thanks to State Comptroller DiNapoli’s new report on the overdose crisis in New York, we have a road map for how to better support New Yorkers who are struggling so that we can stop the senseless tragedies that are impacting far too many families in our community,” said state Sen. Anna Kaplan. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming legislative session to implement the Comptroller’s recommendations and continuing our effort to attack this crisis from all sides.”