By Seth Daniel
The 2015 overdose death numbers for Everett and the rest of the state were revealed late last week, and while the numbers looked to be encouraging early, those close to the situation said they expect the numbers to be revised upward.
The state Department of Public Health (DPH) released overdose opiate deaths by community for 2015 on Thursday last week. For Everett, the news seemed encouraging at first glance.
After spiking in 2014 to 27 deaths from a low of five deaths in 2013 – the 2015 number of 16 deaths looked like improvement.
That’s a decline of 11 deaths.
However, Patti Scalesse of Everett Overcoming Addiction said the decline might not be accurate.
“I don’t think the numbers are really accurate,” she said. “The Medical Examiners Office is really backlogged with these investigations. I think they’ll end up revising it upward. I know of three deaths in December and I think they might end up going up in Everett. There is an asterisk on the numbers to say that they might be revised quarterly. We waited eight months for my nephew’s cause of death. I don’t want people to have a false sense of security here. Hopefully the numbers don’t increase, but I don’t think that’s realistic.”
In neighboring Chelsea, the overdose deaths spiked in 2015, going from five to 16 – which was comparable to Everett.
In Revere, their overdose death numbers went from 24 in 2014 to 13 last year.
On the Council, newly elected Councilor Anthony DiPierro has been leading a charge to help bring new programs and practices to Everett to help stem the tide of overdoses and opiate overdose deaths.
One key proposal that he is hoping to get on track is an Opiate Response Team. Such a group would respond to anyone who has overdosed and provide them with information and tools to prevent an overdose. In Revere, the Fire Department runs a Response Team. In Chelsea, a new wrap around services program has been established where full-time Navigators work with the addicted population. Those Navigators are able to access services on demand for those that request them and want to make a change. So far, the program is seeing some early successes.
Scalesse said she is ready to move forward and believes Everett has admitted it has a problem and now needs to take action.
“We’ve acknowledged it, now let’s put things in place,” she said. “We’ve had a whole lot of meetings, but so far it’s just talk. We’ve talked a lot about a Response Team, but we don’t have it yet. Revere is doing it, Chelsea is doing it and Arlington’s on board. We’re talking about it, but it’s not there yet.”