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Photo via Shutterstock
Photo via Shutterstock

The city will invest $38 million annually to combat the increasing opioid epidemic throughout the five boroughs, officials announced on Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, first lady Chirlane McCray, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and other city officials introduced the “HealingNYC” initiative at a press conference on March 13. The effort includes four main components: preventing opioid overdose deaths, preventing opioid misuse and addiction, connecting New Yorkers to effective treatment and reducing the supply of dangerous opioids.

The goal of the initiative is to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over the next five years.

“That’s an ambitious target, no question,” McCray said at the press conference. “But it’s important to understand that every single overdose death is preventable.”

Over the course of these five years, the city aims to distribute 100,000 naloxone kits — a drug used to reverse opioid overdose — citywide. The city also will work to increase access to medication-assisted treatment for addiction to an additional 20,000 New Yorkers, run a series of public awareness campaigns and educate clinicians to reduce overprescribing.

“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.”

Additionally, the NYPD will equip all 23,000 of its patrol officers with naloxone and will expand its enforcement against dealers of opioids by creating new “Overdose Response Squads” that will target dealers in high-risk neighborhoods throughout the city.

“As we have seen overdose deaths outpace homicides and traffic fatalities combined, the NYPD will be doing all in our power to combat this rise,” O’Neill said. “The Department will assign 84 new detectives to investigate overdoses and to make long-term drug trafficking cases against the dealers that are selling drugs that cause overdoses in our communities. New investigative resources, as we equip all officers on patrol with naloxone, will help us save lives and fight the thousands of opioid overdoses this city sees every year.”

According to recent city data, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose which involved an opioid in 2016 — the highest year on record. Furthermore, more New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined.

Approximately eight in 10 overdose deaths in New York City involved an opioid, according to an Epi Data Brief published in August of last year. In Queens, 83 residents overdosed on some form of heroin in 2015, compared with 53 in 2012. The rate of heroin-involved overdose death increased more than 50 percent between 2014 to 2015 in Flushing and southwest Queens.

“HealingNYC addresses an opioid crisis that requires a citywide response to prevent overdose deaths and protect those at risk,” said McCray. “New York City has a responsibility to help New Yorkers who are struggling with a substance misuse disorder. With ThriveNYC as a foundation, HealingNYC provides additional resources to spread the word about overdose warning signs, educate clinicians how to prescribe opioid pain relievers judiciously, and help lift the stigma and shame that keep so many people from seeking treatment.”

“I applaud the mayor’s plans to tackle opioid addiction and get people the treatment they desperately need,'” Queens Congressman Tom Suozzi said. “This issue affects countless people and families all across New York, and I believe this is a bold step in the right direction.”

For more details about the city’s HealingNYC initiative, click here.

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