The rate of drug overdose deaths rose nationwide last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Hampshire had the sixth highest rate of fatal overdoses in 2017 — 37 for every 100,000 residents — accounting for 467 deaths. But based on the numbers so far, state officials are projecting that 2018 will mark the first time since 2012 that the number of overdose deaths will decrease compared with the previous year.

In its latest report, which includes data through Nov. 15, the New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative projected that the fatal overdose rate for 2018 will be 31 per 100,000 residents.

So far, there have been 288 confirmed overdose deaths — the vast majority of them a result of fentanyl and heroin in combination with each other and other drugs — with 81 cases still pending toxicology results.

“New Hampshire was one of the first states into this crisis, but I have no doubt that through our innovative programs and partnerships, we will be the first state out of the opioid crisis,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. “We are confident that this year’s overdose reduction rate will only accelerate as our hub-and-spoke model takes root and our Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative expands. We are working hard to stem the tide, but there is always more work to do.”

New Hampshire has secured $45 million in federal grants over the next two years to improve its addiction treatment infrastructure. State officials are in the process of implementing a hub-and-spoke model designed to ensure continuity of care for Granite Staters as they move from one level of recovery to the next.

“I’m relieved New Hampshire’s drug overdose death rate did not significantly increase last year, which is a testament to the hard work of our first responders, treatment providers and community leaders,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement. “However, these numbers still reflect a very tragic reality and make it clear that much more needs to be done at the federal level to help New Hampshire overcome this epidemic. Nearly 500 deaths a year is a staggering and unacceptable number, with each death representing a family member, friend or colleague taken far too soon.”

There were 70,237 overdose deaths in the country last year, the CDC reported.

West Virginia (57.8), Ohio (46.3), and the District of Columbia (44) posted the highest rates of fatal overdoses per 100,000 residents in 2017.

In March, President Donald Trump unveiled his Stop Opioid Abuse plan at Manchester Community College.

“This scourge of drug addiction in America will stop,” he said. “It will stop. Failure is not an option. We will raise a drug-free generation of American children.”

tfeathers@unionleader.com

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