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NYC Combats Opioid Epidemic 

March 20, 2017 
By Neal Tepel

New York, NY - New York City has launched HealingNYC, a new, comprehensive effort to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over the next 5 years. In 2016, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose which involved an opioid, the highest year on record.

More New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined.

"The opioid epidemic is a growing crisis that affects not only users, but also their loved ones,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “If we're going to start winning the battle against opioids, we need to start talking honestly about what works and invest in the strategic measures that will stop abuse, break addiction and save lives. HealingNYC is our plan to treat and help those struggling with addiction - and prevent more from falling under the control of these powerful drugs."

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by more than 300. This dramatic increase is driven by the introduction of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than the painkiller morphine, into the supply of illicit drugs. Before 2015, fentanyl was involved in fewer than five percent of all overdose deaths in New York City. Almost 90 percent of fatal opioid overdoses in 2016 involved heroin or fentanyl, while 18 percent involved prescription opioid painkillers.

Through HealingNYC, the City will focus its efforts on four main goals to combat this epidemic, and invest $38 million annually at full ramp-up to implement the following strategies:
    •    Prevent opioid overdose deaths – The City will distribute 100,000 naloxone kits to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York City Police Department, the Department of Social Services and Correctional Health Services, a division of NYC Health + Hospitals, so that healthcare providers, first responders and shelter providers can have access to the tools they need to save lives.
    •    Prevent opioid misuse and addiction – In 2017, ThriveNYC will create additional mental health clinics in high-need schools that account for a disproportionate share of suspensions and mental health issues, which can be precursors for substance misuse. As part of the City’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about addiction and end the stigmas attached to seeking effective treatment, the City will build on “Save a Life, Carry Naloxone” public awareness campaign  and will connect up to five of the communities at highest risk with targeted prevention messages and care. The City will also educate clinicians on best practices for judicious prescribing, and expand the Nonfatal Overdose Response System (NORS) to a total of 10 high-risk neighborhoods, up from three from 2017 to 2019.
    •    Connect New Yorkers to effective treatment – An additional 20,000 New Yorkers will have access to medication-assisted treatment by 2022. NYC Health + Hospitals will transform its substance use care models to become a system of excellence in addressing harmful opioid use. The City will also build on the work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice System to target treatment and expand resources in the criminal justice system.
    •    Reduce the supply of dangerous opioids – In 2017, the Administration will make new investments in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the New York City Police Department to increase the kinds of testing and information sharing that the City needs to get a better understanding of the local drug environment. To build upon existing efforts in Staten Island, the New York City Police Department will create new Overdose Response Squads that will target dealers in other high-risk neighborhoods in New York City. The City will assign 84 detectives and hire 50 lab personnel at the New York City Police Department to combat this epidemic and disrupt the supply of opioids before they come into the city.  
    •    “The opioid epidemic must be treated like the public health crisis that it is, one that is tearing apart families and communities. This investment in critical treatment, prevention, and awareness efforts is exactly what our City needs to reverse this deadly cycle of abuse. We must continue to focus on alleviating this problem and ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to these much-needed resources,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

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