The Public are Informed About the Climate of Opioid Use in Chittenden County and 1 more...less...

Annual Opioid-Related Deaths in Chittenden County Drop to Zero

Number of Accidental Opioid Overdose Fatalities in Chittenden County


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Story Behind the Curve

Opioid-related accidental or undetermined fatalities in Chittenden County, and statewide, have continued to climb steadily year over year. This same trend is observed on a National level as well, where opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 15.5% from 2014 to 2015, as noted in this National Institute on Drug Abuse report. Between 2010 and 2016, opioid-related accidental or undetermined fatalities accounted for 65.6% of all drug-related fatalities in Chittenden County, with yearly percentages reaching as low as 58.6% in 2011, and as high as 76% in 2014. To illustrate the growing presence of opioids in overdose deaths, both "Accidental Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths" and "Total Drug-Related Drugs" have been graphed together. To view both graphs side by side, click on the title of this metric, then click "Trend Line Comparison". This increase in opioid-related overdoses tracks closely with National trends, as roughly 61% of all overdose fatalities in the US were opioid-related in 2014, as were 63% in 2015, as reported by the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths. This Vermont Department of Health Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programming Data Brief provides additional information and context on drug-related fatality trends in Vermont, and this Data Brief provides additional information specifically on opioid-related fatality trends.

Though it can be difficult to find causal links that explain rises and declines in opioid-related accidental or undetermined fatalities year to year, there are a number of initiatives being pursued to decrease fatalities due to opioid abuse disorder in Chittenden County, and Vermont. Chief among them is the Naloxone Pilot Project, which aims to provide the life-saving drug Narcan to as many Vermonters as possible, as well as the CommStat initiative within the CCOA, which among other objectives, aims to provide a lifeline of resources to those most in danger of fatally overdosing.


This information was collected by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and is reported by the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP) within the Vermont Department of Health. More detailed, statewide figures can be found on their Opioids Performance Scorecard. It is important to note that "accidental or undetermined" fatalities do not include any pending investigations, suicide, or homicide deaths. Additionally, these figures consider if any cause of death (primary cause, secondary, etc.), contributory conditions, or injury descriptions are opioid-related when tabulating County totals. Therefore, these figures may include more incidents than are reported at national levels. For instance, the Center for Disease Control employs a methodology which only considers if the primary cause of death is opioid-related. Incidents that are reported by ADAP are done with a 10 week delay to allow for enough time to confirm causes of death and contributing factors. Strategies to mitigate the practical effects of this delay are detailed in the Strategy notes.

Last Updated: October 2017


One of the CCOA's goals is to create new avenues of data collection among partners as coordination and collaboration increase within the Alliance. Regarding opioid related accidental or undetermined fatalities, a new Opioid Likelihood Scale has been instituted by the Chittenden County State's Attorney for use when responding to all untimely deaths in Chittenden County. This system has been piloted in other major metropolitan areas that are dealing with increasing opioid-related fatalities, including New York City, and has demonstrated sufficient accuracy to be used as a nearly real-time estimate of opioid-overdose deaths. Additionally, the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs has agreed to accelerate the reporting cycle of drug-related fatalities from a quarterly report to a monthly report with data delayed by 10 weeks. By combining this greater degree of collaboration and the use of the Opioid Likelihood Scale, the Alliance aims to create a more accurate appraisal of the real impact of opioids on our population.

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