Media Advisory, March 7, 2024

New Haven, CT—Fentanyl continues to be the top substance found in overdose deaths in the five-town area covering New Haven, Hamden, North Haven, Woodbridge, and Bethany. According to a new report, each month, approximately 11 people in the area fatally overdose on fentanyl. Xylazine—a potent drug used in veterinary applications—is also on the rise as it is often mixed with street fentanyl. Unlike fentanyl overdose, which can potentially be reversed with Narcan (also called naloxone), no method exists to reverse a xylazine-involved overdose, complicating intervention response.

The report was funded by the CDC’s Overdose Data to Action program which supports comprehensive data collection to help local health departments plan and implement overdose prevention activities. It was compiled by DataHaven in partnership with the New Haven Health Department and the Quinnipiack Valley Health District, which covers the towns of Hamden, North Haven, Woodbridge, and Bethany. The report summarizes data trends related to overdose, substance use, harm prevention, and related metrics, and provides recommendations for overdose prevention. It can be found online at An earlier version of the report was completed in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the opioid crisis substantially worse in Connecticut and nationwide. Limited access to intervention and treatment was one driving factor in the increase in overdose deaths. While the worst year for fatal overdoses nationally and statewide was in 2021, the number of overdoses in the five-town region continued to rise in 2022. In that year, there were 154 deaths in the five-town area covered by the report, surpassing the previous record of 147 in 2021.

“This report further highlights the drug overdose crisis we’re seeing every day in our communities,” said Maritza Bond, MPH, Health Director for the City of New Haven. “Losing 154 lives across the region in one year is heartbreaking. Now more than ever, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to continue using evidence-based interventions to save lives while also testing new approaches. This past year we expanded our regional coordinated efforts thanks to the CDC’s OD2A: LOCAL grant award of $10 million over the next five years. We are hiring outreach workers who will be ‘boots on the ground’ to educate residents on the dangers of xylazine and fentanyl and link people who use drugs with critical support and services. We are also launching a more coordinated, streamlined data surveillance program across six health departments in New Haven County so we can make real-time decisions to prevent overdoses. We want to make sure no stone is left unturned in the next phase of our work as a region.”

A few additional findings from the report include:

  • As of May, 2023, 87 percent of overdose deaths in the region involved opioids, 79 percent involved fentanyl, 48 percent involved cocaine, 26 percent involved ethanol, 13 percent involved xylazine, and 6 percent involved heroin.
  • After converging for many years, the overdose rate is now higher for people of color than white people. In the five-town area, the overdose death rate for Black people is 71.0 per million residents; for Latinos, 63.2; and for white people, 51.2.
  • There were 5,504 accidental, nonfatal overdoses in the five-town area between 2018 and 2022. There are about 10 nonfatal overdoses for every fatal overdose in the region.
  • Of the roughly 16,000 people in Connecticut admitted to treatment for opiates or heroin in 2020, 88 percent had been in treatment at least once before. More than a third had been in treatment five or more times.
  • In 2023, naloxone was approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter medication and is now available at local drug stores for about $45 per box. Local health departments also provide naloxone to residents, free of charge.
  • The report finds a relationship between personal health, financial wellbeing, civic trust, and overdose.

“As we discovered during the input process for the community health assessment for the QVHD region, mental health and substance use concerns are top-of-mind for many residents in the area,” said Kelly Davila, Senior Research Associate at DataHaven and lead author of the report. “New scholarship increasingly points to the need to unify programs that address structural drivers of overdose alongside substance use. Overdose prevention centers, housing-first initiatives, and employment opportunities can all work hand-in-hand to reduce the number of overdose deaths we see in our area.”

Kelly Davila
Senior Research Associate, DataHaven
Email: kelly [at]
Mark Abraham
Executive Director, DataHaven
Email: info [at], Phone: 203-500-7059
About DataHaven
DataHaven is a New Haven-based non-profit organization with a 30-year history of public service to Connecticut communities. Its mission is to empower people to create thriving communities by collecting and ensuring access to data on well-being, equity, and quality of life. Learn more at