A new report concludes that Dutchess and Westchester counties reported some of New York state's highest rates of drug-related deaths.
The five-year study said drug-related overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in New York and nationwide, largely due to an increased abuse of heroin and opioid painkillers.
The "New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention" report prepared for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature was completed in April.
Four Hudson Valley counties ranked among 15 in the state with more than 20 deaths involving heroin since 2009, as reflected on the accompanying chart: Suffolk County led the state in heroin-related overdose deaths with 337, compared to 119 in Westchester, 76 in Dutchess, 37 in Orange and 22 in Ulster County.
Adjusted for population, Dutchess County had the third highest overdose death rate linked to heroin -- after Suffolk and Bronx counties, the report said.
With all drugs included, Westchester County averaged 69 overdose fatalities annually; Orange County had an annual average of 47 drug-related deaths; and Dutchess County averaged 45 drug-related deaths. By comparison, Rockland County reported an annual average of 20 drug-related deaths during the five-year period studied, while Putnam County averaged 10 overdose deaths per year.
According to the report, opioid-related hospital emergency room visits increased by 73 percent statewide between 2010 and 2014.
In 2013, an average of two New Yorkers died each day of heroin-related overdoses, the report said. More than four times as many men died of heroin overdoses compared to women; and whites died of heroin-related overdoses at a rate of nearly twice that of blacks. The study also found that half the people who died of heroin overdoses were under age 35.
"The upward trend in heroin-related overdose fatalities among younger New Yorkers is particularly alarming," the report said.
Among the report's recommendations for action:
- Build on the momentum brought by training first responders and people who are likely to witness an overdose in opioid overdose prevention and equipping them with Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan. The antidote reverses potentially-fatal effects of heroin and other opioid drugs.
- Broaden overdose prevention and Narcan training to include probation, drug court and criminal court judges, family court, defense attorneys and prosecutors.