Michigan’s drug overdose deaths increased by at least 16% in first six month of 2020 compared to prior year


Michigan is reporting its second consecutive year of decreasing drug overdose deaths overall.

That's the good news. However, there is at least a 16% increase in overdose deaths from January through June of 2020 compared to that time in 2019, preliminary data says.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced Thursday that out of 2,354 overdose deaths in 2019, 75%, or 1,768 were opioid-related.

Overall overdose deaths declined in 2019 by 9.4% from the 2,599 in 2018 – below 2016 numbers.

Opioid-related overdose deaths decreased in 2019 by 13.2% from 2018’s total of 2,036.

However, preliminary data from January through June of 2020 show 1,340 overdose deaths – a 185 death, or 16% increase from that period in 2019. Similarly, opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020 increased by 171, or 20% ti 1,045 from the 2019 time period. The 2020 deaths are likely underreported due to incomplete data.

“Our efforts to prevent opioid misuse, provide high-quality recovery treatment and reduce the harm caused by opioids to individuals and their communities are paying off,” Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a statement. “We have made significant progress, however, our preliminary 2020 data is showing there may have been an uptick in deaths last year. This illustrates that there is much more work to do and we will not rest until we have made further progress in addressing an issue that has devastated far too many families.”

Michigan aims to halve opioid-related overdose deaths by 2024 through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to prison inmates and syringe exchange programs.

In 2019, the age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate decreased from 21.2 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2018 to 18.2 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2019.

However, Michigan had an increase in deaths due to psychostimulants including methamphetamine. More than 200 Michiganders died from an overdose involving psychostimulants with abuse potential in 2019, a 21% increase from the previous year.

The 2019 decline in opioid-related overdose deaths was largely driven by decreases in the number of poisoning deaths by heroin and commonly prescribed natural and semisynthetic drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone.

The push to decrease overdose deaths include:

  • Expanding funding of Medication-Assisted Treatment programs in hospitals statewide
  • Launching a statewide portal for naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug.
  • Beginning Medication-Assisted Treatment programs in four state prisons and in several jails
  • Rolling out Emergency Medical Services Naloxone Leave Behind protocol so EMS agencies can leave naloxone kits with family and friends after a nonfatal overdose.
  • Supporting the implementation of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (programs in Muskegon and Washtenaw counties and the City of Detroit to divert people with opioid use disorder and other behavioral health issues to treatment and other resources.

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