The city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has targeted Ridgewood, Fresh Meadows and the Rockaways as neighborhoods with high levels of fatalities from opioid abuse and plans to use City Hall in Your Borough to raise awareness and distribute naloxone, a life-saving drug for use in the event of an overdose.
About 270 residents from Queens died from opioid overdoses in 2017, with highest rates among white people between the ages of 35 to 54, according to the agency. The Health Department will spend the next two months visiting up to 800 primary care clinics in targeted neighborhoods to encourage naloxone for at risk patients and their families.
City Councilman Donovan Richards serves as chair of the Committee on Public Safety and spoke about how critical it is identify factors that lead to opioid abuse while stemming the number of deaths.
“The opioid epidemic continues to be a major issue for communities across New York City and while we work to identify and address the systemic factors that contribute to more cases of abuse, it is critical that we as a city step up to save every life we can,” Richards said.
Councilman Robert Holden, who represents Ridgewood, said he has worked to combat the opioid crisis in his district by issuing resolutions urging congress to pass key bills, some of which are awaiting the president’s signature.
“The opioid crisis has heavily affected my district, and as legislators we need to do everything in our power to combat the irresponsible distribution of these drugs and provide better treatment for those struggling with addiction,” Holden said.
Fentanyl is currently the most destructive opioid, according to the Health Department, with 54 percent of overdose deaths being attributed to its use.
“It is imperative that the city does everything in its power to ensure those struggling with opioid addiction receive treatment and care instead of punishment and incarceration,” Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents Fresh Meadows, said. “Connecting people in need with assistance is only possible through education and outreach.”
The Health Department’s Queens office holds regular classes to educate the public on opioid risks and offers free naloxone kits with training on how to use them.
Major drug store chains such Walgreens and CVS also offer naloxone, a Dept. of Health press release noted.
“With the rate of opioid overdose doubling in the last eight years, it is important that the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is moving to equip healthcare providers with the knowledge they need to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Councilman Barry Grodenchik.
Fentanyl can be found in heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine and ketamine as opioid related deaths remain at epidemic levels across the United States and has made its way into the national political dialogue.