*To view the 2021 Plymouth County Outreach Annual Report, click here.*
PLYMOUTH — The following is a statement from the Plymouth County Outreach Advisory Board:
The Plymouth County Outreach Advisory Board is pleased to announce an 18% decrease in fatal overdoses in 2021. This reduction is thanks to the tireless efforts of our Recovery Coaches, Outreach Officers, Plymouth County Drug Abuse Task Force, and dedicated partners who never gave up despite the obstacles brought on by the pandemic. We are fortunate in Plymouth County to have such a strong network of community organizations, hospitals, and law enforcement and we would not be where we are today without their dedication and commitment. While we appreciate this accomplishment, we also acknowledge that every fatal overdose is one too many and we still have a great deal of work to do in the years to come.
In 2021, Plymouth County Outreach (PCO) had proposed to create and distribute harm reduction kits, start conducting hot spot outreach in our five “hardest hit communities” and start working with the Sheriff’s Department to provide resources to individuals being released from incarceration, in addition to the work we were already doing. Although the COVID-19 pandemic continued to be a barrier in 2021, we were able to make progress in all of these areas.
Our outreach teams started distributing harm reduction kits in May of 2021 and were able to distribute close to 200 kits in eight months. In addition, Plymouth County Outreach team members distributed 465 boxes of Naloxone throughout the county during follow up visits, hot spot outreach and community events. Hot spot outreach efforts began in three of our five hardest hit communities with plans to expands to another three communities in 2022. Efforts included outreach to our unhoused community members, building partnerships with local businesses, community Naloxone trainings and access to resources, treatment and care.
Plymouth County Outreach hired a full-time Recovery Coach to work with the Sheriff’s Department in September 2021 with plans to start entering the jail in April 2022. In addition to meeting with individuals before they’re released, this Recovery Coach will be able to conduct regular follow up post incarceration and address social determinants of health.
Plymouth County Outreach will also continue working to provide resources and support to individuals living with substance use disorder and their loved ones with an overall goal of reducing overdose deaths throughout the county.
Plymouth County Outreach is an outcome-driven organization; data is the “fuel” that drives these positive outcomes. Using the strong database that it has worked on with its research partner, Kelley Research Associates, PCO leverages its Advisory Board and stakeholders to continually assess what works, what efforts can be further optimized, and where their finite resources can make the biggest impact within the complex rubric of substance use, mental health, and socioeconomic variables. The data will continue to evolve as the battle lines of this war dynamically shift.
In 2021 Plymouth County Outreach was able to increase successful contact rates back up to 61% (762) from 58% (595) in 2020. Of the visits where Plymouth County Outreach was able to make contact with the individual who overdosed, the individual accepted assistance from the outreach team 74% of the time. Harm reduction practices continues to be a critical tool in decreasing the negative impacts of substance use and building trust in the community while preventing fatal overdoses.
Plymouth County Outreach has continued to see pressed pills and other substances being laced with fentanyl, often unknown to the consumers. Of the 130 fatal overdoses in 2021, 64% (83) of those involved individuals had no prior records in our Critical Incident Management System. These are individuals whom with we never had the opportunity to engage prior to their fatal incidents. Similar corroborating but lagging data is published by the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC), a summary of which is the following:
- The Center for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics indicated there was an estimated 28.5% increase in overdose deaths nationally from April 2020 to April 2021 compared to the year before.
- The new data also indicated that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in the past year. Deaths involving cocaine use also increased.
- According to CDC data, Massachusetts experienced an estimated 1.3% increase in fatal overdoses from January 2021 to September 2021 compared to the year before. Where Plymouth County saw a 7.2% decrease in fatal overdoses from January 2021 to September 2021 compared to the year before.
In 2021, Plymouth County Outreach saw a 110% increase in at risk referrals throughout the county (e.g. from 199 in 2020 to 419 in 2021). This is a positive increase, as it shows individuals are proactively seeking assistance before an overdose occurs. Plymouth County Outreach has seen steady increases in at-risk-referrals each year with an overall increase of 424% (e.g. 80 in 2017 to 419 in 2021) since 2017. Plymouth County Outreach is also seeing an increase in at-risk referrals for individuals with alcohol use disorder.
Plymouth County Outreach was designed to adapt quickly and excel in keeping our focus on the needs of individuals living with substance use disorder and their loved ones. Using our takeaways from last year, we will move forward in 2022 with action items specific to the challenges faced in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, PCO will:
- Continue conducting hot spot outreach in Brockton, Plymouth, and Wareham and begin conducting hot spot outreach in Middleborough, Marshfield and Rockland.
- Have a Recovery Coach regularly available to inmates being released from the Plymouth County House of Corrections with a history of substance use and partner with the Sheriff’s Department to continue providing them resources after their release.
- Increase access to naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and other harm reduction tools throughout Plymouth County as well as access to resources for our unhoused population.
- Increase education and awareness on pressed pills laced and other substances being laced with fentanyl as well as the importance of testing substances
In summary, Plymouth County Outreach remains committed to the collaborative work of saving lives impacted by substance use disorders. We thank our staff, Outreach Officers, and dedicated partners for their continued support and look forward to the meaningful work ahead.