Last year, more than 1,000 New Yorkers fatally overdosed on opioids. With the drug claiming more lives than ever, New York City officials announced Monday that the city will spend $38 million annually to fight the growing epidemic.
While about 1,300 New Yorkers died because of a drug overdose in 2016, an estimated 1,075 of those deaths involved use of opioids.
Of the deaths linked to opioids, officials said about 90 percent involved the use of heroin or a drug 50 times more potent than heroin called fentanyl, while 18 percent involved prescription painkillers.
Despite the percentages, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is placing the blame for the rise in opioid use on the pharmaceutical industry, which he claims, “encouraged the overuse of addictive painkillers.”
“We literally have a reality now where more and more people get hooked on heroin because they first went through the overuse of a legally prescribed drug.”
The new program, Healing NYC will aim to raise awareness of the epidemic through education programs in both schools and hospitals and encourages physicians to prescribe painkillers at lower doses for shorter periods of time.
“We are focused on the people of New York City but it is impossible to ignore the fact that we now have a national problem on our hands,” said Mayor de Blasio, who is widely known for running a sanctuary city and not deporting illegals for drug offenses. “It is an urban problem, it is a rural problem, simultaneously.”
Healing NYC will also work to make medications that treat addiction more accessible throughout the city’s clinics and emergency departments. Funding will help with the distribution of 100,000 kits of the drug-overdose-reversal drug known as naloxone to city shelters, pharmacies, and treatment programs. In addition, all 23,000 New York Police Department patrol officers will carry the kits.
Even with the millions to be spent, de Blasio says the initiative’s programs will only reduce opioid fatalities by 35 percent over the next five years.
Dealers must also be identified to combat the growing epidemic. Police Commissioner James O’Neill reports most of the deadly heroin is coming from overseas, especially Asia and Mexico.
Last year, the police investigated over 380 overdose cases to identify dealers, used naloxone to save more than 50 people, and confiscated over 830 pounds of heroin. The department is adding more than 80 investigators and 50 lab technicians to investigate every fatal and nonfatal overdose, test heroin at crime scenes, and identify dealers.
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