Preliminary Opioid-Involved Overdose ED Visit Rate May be Stabilizing
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) reports preliminary data from the latter part of 2018 indicating that Connecticut’s opioid overdose epidemic may be stabilizing. This information is based on data from DPH’s EpiCenter syndromic surveillance system, which provides near real-time estimates of emergency department (ED) utilization, including for non-fatal and fatal suspected drug and opioid overdoses. These results suggest that drug overdose prevention strategies implemented locally and statewide may be starting to have an impact.
Preliminary data from the EpiCenter syndromic surveillance system indicate that the rate of ED visits for suspected opioid-involved overdoses was stable between the third and fourth quarters of 2018 in Connecticut (36.4 per 100,000 population or approximately 1,300 ED visits for third quarter vs. 32.6 per 100,000 population or approximately 1,200 ED visits for fourth quarter). This is a distinct change from what has been observed nationally over the last few years where the number of overdose-related ED visits has steadily risen. Although Connecticut’s rate may be stabilizing, or even decreasing in some areas (see county data map), Connecticut’s suspected opioid overdose ED visit rate was about 1.7 times higher than the national rate.
While still preliminary, this is positive news for DPH and state partners including the Department of Consumer Protection, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Children and Families who work collaboratively on the state’s public awareness campaign to address the opioid crisis, Change the Script, as well as other treatment, recovery support and overdose prevention initiatives.
“It is too early to determine if the current data is reflective of a trend, but we are guardedly optimistic that some of our state prevention efforts could be showing some initial results. With all the Emergency Departments in Connecticut onboard our EpiCenter Syndromic Surveillance System, DPH is in a better position to offer timely and accurate surveillance data to inform opioid overdose prevention, intervention and treatment efforts across the state. Fighting the opioid epidemic is a priority for Governor Lamont and his administration; data integration and sharing are critical to our success on this pressing public health crisis” shared DPH Commissioner Pino.
Similar to ED statistics on suspected drug and opioid overdoses, preliminary data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner indicate that the steady rise in deaths due to drug and opioid overdoses in Connecticut could have begun to slow. The anticipated number of unintentional drug and opioid overdose deaths in 2018 (1,030), as projected by the Chief Medical Examiner, is very close to the number of overdose deaths in 2017 (1,038). Comparing the first three quarters of 2018 to the same time period in the prior year, the rate of opioid-involved overdose deaths per 100,000 Connecticut population was almost identical, 20.0 in 2018 vs. 20.1 in 2017. For more annual drug overdose death data, see Connecticut Accidental Drug Intoxication Deaths 2012-2018
Overdose death data show that synthetic opioids, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are currently the most common opioid drugs involved in overdose deaths, and continue to be a significant problem for people with substance use disorders. Treatment providers and people experiencing addiction need to know what substances are in the drug distribution chain, a critical role that DPH is ready to fill.
“The Connecticut Public Health Laboratory (CT PHL) is at the forefront of the public health efforts in confronting this crisis and will provide opioid testing for the residents of our State in the coming few weeks. Currently these samples are being sent out of state for analysis. Our CT PHL will provide more timely results which will help health care providers to better manage their patients. The laboratory will be screening patient specimens for 32 drugs including fentanyl and additional opioid analogues. Additionally, the CT PHL has recently procured instrumentation through federal grant funding that will enhance and expand our testing capabilities in identifying available drugs seen in our State” according to Dr. Jafar H Razeq, CT PHL Director.
“Even though there are signs that the opioid crisis in Connecticut may be stabilizing, the total number of overdoses and deaths are a sobering reminder of the human and fiscal impact, and magnitude of this epidemic,” cautioned Commissioner Pino.
For more information, please visit DPH’s Opioid and Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program website.
For information about addiction services and treatment, please visit the DMHAS website or call the ACCESS Line at 1-800-563-4086.