State declares an opiate epidemic, but statistics are lacking

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Massachusetts is under siege from a frightening surge of heroin overdoses, Governor Deval Patrick said last month in declaring a state of emergency. That grim view has become unquestioned consensus among law enforcement, health workers, and devastated families.

But even as officials from Beacon Hill to town halls rush to respond to the crisis, its full scope remains unknown. No real-time data are collected by state health officials to show how many overdoses are occurring, how many deaths are resulting, and where the toll is greatest.

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