HARTFORD - The number of accidental drug overdoses in Connecticut topped 1,000, Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill said during a legislative appropriations hearing Friday.
But the preliminary figures released by Gill show, that for the first time in several years, drug deaths have not reached his estimated annual tally.
However, the number of deaths involving fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin, jumped from 483 in 2016 to 675 in 2017.
Gill said as that as of Friday, 1,040 people have been recorded as dying of accidental drug overdoses in 2017.
He expected the number to rise slightly after toxicology tests are completed in the next few weeks.
He initially projected that 1,078 people would die in 2017, based on the 539 deaths in the first six months of the year.
Gill said he will release town-by-town information when all the results are in.
While the number of New Britain residents who fatally overdosed remained essentially steady, at 35 in 2015 and 36 in 2016, those numbers placed the city just behind Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.
In the first six months of 2017, 25 New Britain residents died, according to data released by Gill in August. That number was projected to double, to 50.
New Britain ranked fourth in the state in 2016 in number of residents dying from a drug overdose. The six-month 2017 figures showed the city behind only Hartford.
Bristol, which was running neck and neck with New Britain in 2016, saw a decrease from 35 in all of 2016 to 11 from January to June in 2017, which would project to 22 for the year.
Berlin had four fatal drug overdoses the same six-month timeframe, Plainville one, Southington six and Plymouth two.
Gill told legislators Friday that the number of accidental overdose deaths in the past five years has risen nearly 300 percent, putting a strain on his office.
The Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner lost national accreditation last year, in part due to the number of autopsies each medical examiner is required to perform to keep up with the broadening opioid crisis, Gill said.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.