Health Department Releases New Data on Heroin and Fentanyl Overdose Deaths in New York City

Overdose death rates increase for fifth consecutive year

De Blasio administration has added more resources than ever before to tackle the opioid overdose epidemic, including an unprecedented $25 million over three years

August 9, 2016 – The Health Department today released new data confirming a 66 percent increase in overdose deaths in New York City from 2010-2015. Heroin overdose death rates increased by 158 percent from 2010-2015, and heroin was involved in 59 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2015. In response to preliminary data suggesting high rates of opioid-involved overdose deaths, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new initiatives this past April, which includes a three-year, $25 million investment to fund 10 critical programs that increase education efforts and training and expand surveillance. ThriveNYC, led by First Lady Chirlane McCray, also invests heavily in opioid treatment by increasing distribution and access to life-saving medications, such as naloxone and buprenorphine, in high-risk areas. Heroin-involved overdose death rates increased in all boroughs, except Staten Island. Bronx residents had the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths – the rate was more than double that of Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Bronx also had the largest number of heroin overdose deaths (146) compared with all other boroughs. Citywide, there were a total of 937 overdose deaths in 2015. The new Epi Data Brief can be found here. Please see the Opioid Epi Data Supplemental Brief for additional charts and data.

“This new data underscores the deadly toll the opioid epidemic is taking on too many families in our city, and we are steadfast in our commitment to tackle this crisis through ThriveNYC," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “That’s why the City has worked to make the life-saving medicine Naloxone, which reverses overdose, available in nearly 700 pharmacies without a prescription. ThriveNYC also significantly expands the city’s ability to prescribe buprenorphine, a proven treatment for opioid addiction. We won’t stop fighting this epidemic until every New Yorker who suffers from substance misuse and addiction can find a path to recovery.”

“These new data confirm that opioid addiction is a growing problem and it is the reason the Health Department has taken a comprehensive approach to prevent overdose deaths in New York City,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We are especially concerned about overdose deaths in the Bronx, and will intensify our efforts to expand access to life-saving medications, such as naloxone, in the borough. The commitment from the de Blasio administration to address the growing opioid epidemic across the city will save lives and help connect New Yorkers to services.”

“As the opioid epidemic continues to grow in New York and across the country, we can’t wait any longer to take action and curb this growing crisis,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “We must continue to fight for greater funding and common sense national standards to address the root causes fueling this epidemic. The latest report by the New York City Department of Health makes clear that we must do more to support individuals and communities throughout New York.”   

"As we approach International Overdose Awareness Day later this month, our members and staff remember those we have lost in another year of increasing death in our city," said Matt Curtis, policy director at VOCAL New York, a grassroots advocacy organization. "We applaud the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bassett, including through smart new investments in overdose prevention and other drug services announced this Spring. We will continue to work to ensure that people who use drugs have a voice in shaping policies that affect them and access to every tool available to prevent fatal overdose and promote health and wellness, including harm reduction services and evidence-based drug treatment."

New Yorkers aged 45 to 54 had the highest rate of heroin overdose death. However, the largest increase was among New Yorkers aged 15 to 34, in which the rate increased by 248 percent. The heroin overdose death rate was higher among white New Yorkers, compared with Latino New Yorkers and Black New Yorkers. The largest increase from 2014 to 2015 was among Latino New Yorkers, in which the rate increased by 51 percent.

Fentanyl was involved in 16 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2015, up from 3 percent in the previous 10 years. In April, the Health Department warned New Yorkers about the dangers of fentanyl and issued a Health Alert to all providers, including hospitals, emergency rooms, stand-alone clinics and private practices, to alert them of this increase. The Health Department warned that fentanyl has a high risk of overdose, and that patients may require a higher dose or multiple doses of naloxone to reverse a fentanyl-involved overdose.

The City’s new $25 million plan includes funding to:

  1. conduct prescriber education;
  2. improve counseling practices;
  3. increase public awareness through media campaigns;
  4. double the City’s investment in harm reduction services;
  5. expand public health surveillance for opioids;
  6. establish routine fentanyl testing;
  7. double the City’s naloxone distribution services;
  8. establish a new treatment/early intervention program for Staten Island youth;
  9. offer interventions to individuals after nonfatal overdoses, and;
  10. expand access to buprenorphine, a life-saving medication used to treat opioid dependency.

Buprenorphine is used to treat addiction to opioids by stopping cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. Despite many benefits, availability of buprenorphine remains low, leaving many individuals with opioid use disorders without the treatment they need. To address this, the Health Department recently released a Request for Proposals that aims to expand access to buprenorphine and promote high-quality care. Four contracts – including two in the Bronx – were awarded to primary care practices to implement a Nurse Care Manager model, adapted from a successful program in Massachusetts, through which team-based care for patients being treated for opioid use disorders will be delivered. As part of this initiative, award recipients will receive ongoing technical assistance and mentorship to facilitate successful implementation. A buprenorphine physician waiver training is scheduled for Friday, September 23rd at DOHMH from 12:30-5pm. To register, send name, email, title and affiliation to

As part of the Health Department’s approach to reduce heroin and opioid analgesic overdose deaths in New York City, the Health Department funds 14 syringe access programs for New Yorkers who use drugs, including heroin. These programs provide counseling, education on reducing risk from drug use, and overdose prevention services. In response to increasing heroin overdose rates, the Health Department is incentivizing contracted syringe access programs to expand overdose prevention services in targeted areas and to reach individuals currently not receiving harm reduction services.

The Health Department also distributes naloxone to syringe access and other programs in New York City. This medication immediately reverses the effects of heroin and prescription painkillers, and can save lives if bystanders and other first responders administer it to an overdosing person. The City will fund the distribution of 7,500 additional naloxone kits for community-based organizations serving people at risk for overdose, and support them to hire peer educators to enhance capacity to distribute naloxone.

Individuals likely to witness an opioid overdose, including substance users and their friends and family are strongly encouraged to become trained in overdose prevention and are encouraged to call 311 to find out where to receive overdose prevention training and to get a naloxone kit.

The Health Department leads RxStat, an innovative public health and public safety data-sharing initiative. RxStat involves partners from city, state, and federal health and law enforcement agencies to reduce overdose death and associated health consequences.

To read the Epi Data Brief in full, click here. For more information, search “prevent overdose” at



Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez:
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