NEW YORK (PIX11) — More than 2,600 New York City overdose deaths were recorded in 2021, with fentanyl involved in 80%, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Thursday.
“These deaths are heartbreaking and many, if not most, are absolutely preventable,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said, in part, in a statement.
In total, 2,668 fatal overdoses were recorded across the five boroughs in 2021, a 27% increase from the year prior and 78% more than in 2019, according to DOH data.
For the fifth consecutive year, fentanyl was the most common substance involved, being detected in four-of-five victims, the agency said. That’s nearly twice as common as the next most prevalent substance, cocaine, which was detected in 47% of fatal overdoses.
Racial and geographical disparities were also evident. For the second year in a row, rates of overdose deaths were highest among Black communities. Since 2019, that figure has more than doubled from 24 per 100,000 New Yorkers to 53.5 per 100,000, according to the data.
The Bronx, meanwhile, was the hardest-hit borough, with areas taking the top four spots citywide in terms of overdose rate: Hunts Point – Mott Haven, Crotona – Tremont, Highbridge – Morrisania, and Fordham – Bronx Park.
Through the first nine months of 2022, the city took several steps to combat the overdose scourge, DOH said. The measures include: Distributing 159,951 naloxone kits; leading 71 training sessions in overdose reversal; handing out over 32,000 fentanyl test strips to over 5,500 people; and securing four vending machines to contain naloxone, sterile syringes, and other supplies for a forthcoming 2023 pilot.
“As a city we must use every evidence-based tool at our disposal to reach people with services and – most of all – support and compassion,” said Vasan, in part, in his statement. “As a society, stigma, shame, and fear have worsened the situation and delayed the deployment of proven solutions. We must use these ever-worsening outcomes to combat this fear and to meet people where they are with care, and our team is working on an expanded response plan to continue fighting this crisis.”