State Confirms Four Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths On Nantucket Last Year

JohnCarl McGrady •

Opioid overdose deaths may be trending slightly up on Nantucket, though newly released numbers from the state make trends difficult to identify, even as overdose deaths across the state have dropped by 10 percent.

There were four opioid-related overdose fatalities reported on Nantucket in 2023, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reviewing the number of overdoses in 2023. The annual opioid overdose deaths on the island have remained between zero and four since 2013. The new DPH data was released on June 12.

Since the absolute numbers are low because of Nantucket’s relatively small population, it is hard to say if there has been any movement over the last decade. However, the three-year rolling average for overdose deaths, which was two in 2015, has slowly increased, breaking double digits at ten for the first time last year. The total numbers are low enough, however, that the gradual increase may be due to chance. Either way, it is clear that the downward trend across the state is not replicated on a local level.

If there is an upward trend on Nantucket, it may be due to fentanyl. Dr. Tim Lepore, founder of Addiction Solutions of Nantucket, has suggested that fentanyl use on the island is increasing, with potentially deadly effects.

The opioid overdose crisis is one the local police department takes seriously.

“Every sworn member of the [Nantucket Police Department] carries Narcan,” police chief Jody Kasper said. “We have begun proactive outreach efforts to people who may be at high risk for an overdose.”

Although Nantucket is not seeing the progress that has been observed on the state level, Kasper believes that both local and state numbers will trend down as new prevention and mitigation methods are implemented.

Some studies indicate that opioid overdose deaths are routinely undercounted around the country. Even one or two missed deaths could throw off Nantucket’s numbers dramatically, making this a particularly important issue for the island.

“I would think that [the state’s statistics] would be pretty accurate numbers,” Kasper said.

Representatives of Fairwinds, the island’s behavioral health treatment center, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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