ALBANY -- The number of drug-related deaths in New York's suburbs and upstate soared a whopping 84 percent between 2010 and 2015, a new report found.
Fueled by a surge in heroin abuse, New York had a remarkable spike in overdoses over the six-year period: Deaths rose 71 percent increase, according to analysis of federal data by The Rockefeller Institute of Government.
And the problem was most pronounced in the New York City suburbs and upstate, the institute's report found.
In the city, the annual drug-related deaths rose 45 percent over the six-year stretch, but spiked 84 percent in large upstate counties outside the city.
Death by county
In Broome County, the number of deaths increased from 19 in 2010 to 40 in 2015, and the per-capita rate increased from 14 to 20 per 100,000 people. The CDC did not include complete data from small counties.
“Like the rest of the nation, New York is experiencing a serious drug epidemic. The number of drug overdose and chronic drug abuse deaths have skyrocketed over the past several years, especially in our upstate and suburban communities—with no signs of letting up," said Jim Malatras, the institute's president and a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Among the state's largest counties, Erie had a 256 percent increase in per-capita drug deaths from 2010 to 2015, while it was 145 percent in Onondaga and 133 percent in Ulster. Westchester County ranked fourth.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino addressed the rise in heroin abuse during his State of the County speech last week, announcing a new response team to address the rise in drug abuse among young people, in particular.
"A strong county means being able to confront our vulnerabilities," Astorino said. "The opioid epidemic has us locked in a deadly battle, and the enemy grows deadlier every day."
In the six years analyzed, Dutchess County had the highest drug-related death rate of any New York county in three of those years: 2010, 2012 and 2013.
NY vs. the nation
The report said men died of drug overdoses or chronic drug abuse at more than twice the rate than women in New York, and white people died at a higher rate than black and Hispanic people in the state.
Overall, 3,009 New Yorkers died from drug overdoses in 2015, a 71 percent increase from 2010, the institute's review of the federal data showed.
Still, New York's problems were less than many states.
In 2015, New York ranked 34th in the nation in its overall death rate from overdoses and chronic drug abuse, Malatras, the report's author, said.
So while Erie had the highest rate of any county in a single year (31.7 per 100,000 people in 2015), it ranked 19th highest in the nation that year. The highest in 2015 was in McDowell County, West Virginia, which had a drug-related death rate of 141 for every 100,000 people, the report said.
The state has taken a number of steps to try to curb the drug abuse.
In 2012, the state Legislature and Cuomo passed a series of laws to crack down on prescription drug abuse.
Then in 2014 and again last year, they passed another round of laws were aimed directly at opioid abuse, such as making treatment more available, toughening penalties for use of opioids and expanding access to the overdose antidote drug, called naloxone.
The state budget approved April 9 earmarks $213 million to fight the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis in New York, up nearly 13 percent from the prior year.
The Republican-led Senate on Monday planned to pass a series of new measures to fight drug addiction.
“I believe that it this the worst drug scourge this nation has ever faced,” Cuomo said last Wednesday on Long Island. “This is worse than crack, this is worse than meth. This is worse than old-time heroin.”
Cuomo said people might think of drug abuse as an urban problem, but that would be a wrong assumption.
"It is more of a suburban issue and more of a rural issue than an urban issue, which is one of the things that makes it a little different," Cuomo said.
"You think of drug abuse: Well, that's an urban problem. That's a poor problem in urban populations. Not anymore."