New York City Program Aims to Slash Opioid Deaths


What New York City is doing to curb the opioid epidemic.

New York City is investing $38 million in a new program aimed at reducing opioid overdose deaths by 35% over the next five years.

One major component of the “HealingNYC” program will be distributing 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. This distribution is being done “so that health-care providers, first responders and shelter providers can have access to the tools they need to save lives,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said in a statement.

Related article: Pharmacists should get training in naloxone use now

In 2016, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose that involved an opioid, the highest annual death toll on record. More New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined, according to the city. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths in New York City increased by more than 300, driven by the increase in fentanyl abuse. Nearly 90% of fatal opioid overdoses in 2016 involved heroin or fentanyl, while 18% involved prescription opioid painkillers.

"The opioid epidemic is a growing crisis that affects not only users, but also their loved ones,” de Blasio said. “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."

“Too many New Yorkers and their families continue to be affected by drug use and unintentional overdoses,” said Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH. “The fight to end the opioid epidemic in New York City has been a priority for this administration, but the growing presence of the drug fentanyl poses a new challenge that deserves an appropriate response and expanded resources.”

Related article: How You Can Help Prevent Opioid Abuse

As part of the HealingNYC program, an additional 20,000 New Yorkers will have access to medication-assisted treatment by 2022, according to the city. “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,” according to a statement put out by the mayor’s office.

In addition, the city’s foundation, ThriveNYCwill 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.

New York City will build on its “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.  These efforts will include educating clinicians on best practices for prescribing, and expanding the Nonfatal Overdose Response System (NORS) to a total of 10 high-risk neighborhoods, up from three, the mayor’s office said.

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