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Overdose Deaths in Queens Surged During the Pandemic: Queens District Attorney

July 16, 2021 By Allie Griffin

Overdose deaths in Queens surged at an alarming rate during the pandemic, the Queens District Attorney revealed in a report Friday.

Nearly 50 percent more Queens residents died of a fatal overdose in 2020 compared to 2019 — in a devastating shift that mirrors a nation-wide trend.

“There is no question that the pandemic, which fueled a national drug abuse crisis, also hit us hard here in our borough,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.

Last year, 391 people died of an overdose in Queens — a 45.5 percent increase over 2019, when 268 people overdosed.

The majority of the deaths — 71 percent — were the result of the deadly drug fentanyl and its derivatives. Many drugs are laced with fentanyl without the user’s knowledge.

“While there were 82 homicides in Queens last year, there were nearly five times as many deaths due to drug overdoses, and the overwhelming majority were attributed to fentanyl,” Katz said. “Addressing this epidemic remains one of the greatest public health challenges facing current and future generations of Queens residents.”

Men accounted for 80 percent of overdose deaths in Queens. The death totals were the highest among residents aged 31 to 60, according to data provided by Katz’s office.

Overdose deaths were highest among white residents, followed by Black residents.

Nationwide, 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an uptick in job loss and overall stress that — along with lockdown restrictions — exacerbated opioid usage and deaths across the country and within Queens, Katz said.

The DA's office says it aims to assist residents who face low-level drug use charges. The office has set up the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court that provides participants with a variety of services, including an introduction to substance use and alcohol addiction treatment.

The office refers eligible defendants for clinical assessment, where they receive recommendations for different treatment options. When participants complete a treatment program, their case is dismissed. The program includes educational, vocational, and home health services related to mental health or psychiatric conditions.

To find a treatment provider, visit FindAddictionTreatment.ny.gov. Call the 24/7 NYS Hopeline: 877-
846-7369 or text 467369 for free and confidential help. Those in need may also find help at this link:
https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator

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