State Health Department: Deadly overdoses increased in Livingston County last year, despite overall state decline

ALBANY — Two of three local counties saw fewer opioid-related deaths last year compared to 2017, a decline that was closely mirrored by a statewide reduction of nearly 16 percent, according to New York State Health Department officials.


Opioid overdose deaths declined in Allegany County from four in 2017 to one in 2018, while the number of emergency room visits for overdoses were cut in half during the same time period in the county, according to the New York State Health Department figures released on Monday.


In Allegany County, the rate of opioid overdoses per 100,000 people went from 8.5 in 2017 to 2.1 in 2018.


In Steuben County, 2017 saw 14 deaths from overdoses, the state Health Department said. That number fell to five last year, according to preliminary data. Deaths from opioid overdoses went from 14.4 per 100,000 in 2017 to 5.2 per 100,000 in 2018.


Emergency room visits for opioid overdoses fell as well, from 43 in 2017 to 27 in 2018, in Steuben County.


Livingston County was the outlier of the group, with opioid-related deaths increasing from seven in 2017 to 15 in 2018, according to the state. The opioid deaths per 100,000 people went from 10.8 to 23.3 between 2017 and 2018.


Statewide, the fatal opioid overdose toll declined to 1,824 deaths from 2,170 in 2017, a 15.9 percent decrease, according to state Health Department data covering areas outside of New York City.


State officials said it is the first yearly decline in overdose fatalities in more than a decade, attributing the progress to measures implemented from recommendations in the New York State Heroin and Opioid Task Force convened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016.


The Task Force proposed new services including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, Centers of Treatment Innovation, mobile treatment, tele-health and 24/7 open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the state and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live, state officials said.


While Cuomo said he was encouraged by the decrease, he cautioned, "We must remain vigilant as many communities across the State are disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic. New York State continues work on targeted efforts to prevent opioid misuse and overdoses whiles enhancing services for people with opioid use disorder and increasing access to those services in areas with the greatest need.“


In another category — hospitalizations for opioid related overdoses statewide — the number decreased 7.1 percent — from 3,260 in 2017 to 3,029 in 2018.


For 2017 in Allegany County, emergency rooms treated 30 patients for opioid overdoses. That number declined to 15 in 2018. The rate per 100,000 people fell from 63.7 in 2017 to about 32 per 100,000 in 2018.


Steuben County emergency room visits for opioid-related overdoses went from 44.4 per 100,000 people in 2017 to 27.9 per 100,000 last year.


Data for Allegany County hospital admissions for opioid overdoses was unavailable because hospitalizations are suppressed for confidentiality if there are fewer than six discharges.


In Steuben County, 2017 saw 14 hospitalizations for opioid overdoses compared to ten in 2018.


In Livingston County, emergency departments treated 42 overdose cases in 2017, followed by a sharp reduction in those same types of visits last year, with the number falling to 24.


Livingston County hospitalizations for overdoses were unchanged from 2017 to 2018 — at 14 each year.


Most of the opioid-related deaths in the three-county area for 2017 and 2018 involved opioid pain killers, however there were exceptions. Livingston County reported four heroin overdose fatalities in 2017 and three in 2018.


Allegany County data shows two fatal heroin overdoses in 2017 and none in 2018.


Steuben County had five fatal heroin overdoses reported for 2017, but none in 2018.


Hornell Police Chief Ted Murray said the department is responding to fewer problems caused by illicitly produced opioids like fentanyl than they were dealing with a couple of years ago. He said fentanyl was responsible for some fatal overdoses in Hornell.


But the chief pointed out there has been a increase in the use of another illicit drug — meth.


“(The decline) doesn’t surprise me because I do think people have moved, for whatever reason, to a little bit away from heroin and to methamphetamine,” Murray said. “We are not seeing (as much) fentanyl.


“Of course methamphetamine is a very dangerous, addictive drug that causes issues with (users).”


Officials also credited the expansion of access to the overdose reversal medication naloxone (Narcan) by increasing insurance coverage for the medication, subsidized co-payments, and regulations to require all OASAS-certified programs to maintain naloxone on site.


Overdose reversal medication has also played a role in preventing fatalities, Murray believes.


“Our patrols all carry Narcan now,” Murray said. “It’s a good tool.”