NYC Steps Up Fight Against Opioid Crisis
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $22 million more will go to fight opioid overdoses in New York City.
That brings total funding for the HealingNYC program, which was estabished last March, to $60 million.
“We are expanding things that are working and we are also adding some new interventions,” New York City Health and Human Services Deputy Mayor Dr. Herminia Palacio tells WCBS Newsradio 880 Producer Neil A. Carousso. “This is a complex problem and as we learn things we’re adding things to help address it.”
City officials say more New Yorkers die from drug overdoses than suicides, homicides and car crashes combined.
Palacio says HealingNYC aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths 35 percent by 2022.
“We’re starting to see a flattening across the city, from 2015 to 2016 we saw a very rapid increase in the number of opioid deaths by about 50 percent — this increase was largely related to the rapid introduction of fentanyl into the drug supply system and after we initiated HealingNYC we’re very optimistic that we’ve seen a flattening,” Palacio said. “The increase from 2016 to 2017 was only about 5 percent so we still have much, much work to do but we are hopeful that some of our work is really starting to get some traction.”
The next step is more access to naloxone, the life-saving drug that opens receptors in the brain that close when someone uses a drug like heroin. People stop breathing when the brain’s receptors close.
The city Health Department is visiting independent pharmacies throughout the five boroughs over the next month to encourage them to offer naloxone, also known as narcan.
“We have already distributed 100,000 naloxone kits through HealingNYC,” Palacio said. “We have good partnerships with many of the chain pharmacies but in New York City, especially in the boroughs, there’s many independent pharmacies that are still very vibrant parts of the communitiy and through this next initiative the Department of Health is working with approximately 800 independent pharmacies to make sure that they’re aware of the commissioner’s order to make sure that they feel comfortable giving naloxone to people who seek it without a prescription.”
Palacio says the goal of this HealingNYC initiative is to put the life-saving drug in the hands of regular people who can save a life before medics can get to the person.
“So that people can protect themselves, protect their friends, protect their family members. We can’t get you to treatment if you suffered a fatal overdose,” Palacio said. “So this is really about saving a life.”
Individuals seeking support or treatment for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell.