Top Stories 2016: Opioid crisis

This is the fifth of 10 vignettes about the top local stories of the year, as chosen by the staff of The Day. To see all of the top stories of the year, visit www.theday.com/2016inreview.

It’s not like the rise in opioid abuse in the region and the country was a secret. But when Lawrence + Memorial Hospital officials on Jan. 28 treated eight suspected heroin overdoses in a single day — a number they called “unprecedented” — the crisis took on a new urgency.

In the 11 months that followed, nonprofit Community Speaks Out helped dozens find elusive treatment center beds. Local police formed a regional task force and state police installed prescription drug take-back boxes at their barracks. Legislators argued for various bills and funding to combat the crisis.

In the midst of it all, countless people bravely told their stories so others who struggle, or know someone who struggles, with addiction could benefit.

The fight’s not over. While data from the first six months of the year suggest the overall increase in accidental drug overdoses is leveling off, powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl are increasingly present. According to the same data, deaths from fentanyl-related overdoses could increase by at least 137 percent this year.

— Lindsay Boyle

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