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Mayor de Blasio Launches Series of Initiatives to Reduce Drug Overdose

April 21, 2016

City will double distribution of life-saving naloxone kits; create a new system that connects people who have experienced non-fatal overdose to treatment; expand outreach and engagement programs; and enhance surveillance to detect and respond to overdose trends

NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced broad efforts to further prevent and address opioid overdoses, building on the administration’s Thrive NYC initiative, which included the expansion of naloxone availability and training, increased training for physicians on buprenorphine, and the creation of the Mayor’s Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force.

“The City is building on concerted efforts to train doctors and counselors treating substance abuse, increase testing for synthetic opioid, and provide greater public awareness around drug use prevention and treatment,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Ending stigmatization and providing a path to recovery is vital to keeping New Yorkers healthy and safe.”

“Substance misuse is an illness, not a failure of character. Yet too often those who suffer from addiction are pushed into shadows instead of connected with a path to recovery,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spearheads ThriveNYC. “With this new investment we reaffirm that those struggling with substance misuse deserve treatment, not scorn, and that New York City is committed to making sure they get it. By breaking down stigma and shame, and increasing prevention efforts, we can stem the flood of opioid addiction in our city.”

“The troubling increase in overdose deaths involving fentanyl shows that there is more we can do to educate providers and the public about the risks of opioid misuse and abuse,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “These new initiatives show the City’s commitment to reducing opioid overdose deaths, which are preventable. I thank Mayor de Blasio for taking this multipronged approach to save lives and provide critical services to New Yorkers.”

The Health Department also issued a Health Alert to all providers, including hospitals, emergency rooms, stand-alone clinics and private practices, alerting to them to potential opioid overdoses that could involve fentanyl. Additionally, the alert included preliminary data showing an overall increase in the number of unintentional drug overdose deaths due to heroin and fentanyl.

The new plan of funding $5.5 million over three years will create the following programs:

  • Staten Island Adolescent Program: Build capacity to reach additional 250 youth at risk or with substance use disorder in Staten Island.
  • Establish Nonfatal Overdose Response System: The City will launch a new Response System to help individuals with history of non-fatal opioid overdose. The new Response System will deploy peer navigators to follow up with consenting patients who have nearly died from an overdose. People who have overdosed are four to five times more likely to die of an overdose. The program will target three neighborhoods in the first year, one in Staten Island, the Bronx, and another location to be determined, to target approximately 1,000 nonfatal individuals per year.
  • Prescriber Education and Training: Educate roughly 1,500 health care providers annually about judicious prescribing to reduce unnecessary exposure to opioids and prevent substance use disorder.
  • Public Media: New plan also ensures dedicated funding for regular media campaigns to raise awareness and target at risk New Yorkers.
  • Training for Counselors: The Health Department will provide training to Substance Use Disorder Counselors already working in communities to deliver evidence based best practices.
  • Testing for Fentanyl in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner: The City will now regularly test for fentanyl, a synthetic opioid contributing to growing number of deaths, to ensure the City accurately tracks the latest data on overdose deaths associated with this specific substance. Data will inform ongoing prevention efforts. The Health Department today also issued a Health Alert advising healthcare providers about the symptoms of opioid overdose. The Health Alert included new preliminary data showing a 10 percent increase in the number of overall unintentional drug overdose deaths, with fentanyl-involved overdoses contributing to this increase. Initial assessment of 2015 data has confirmed 886 drug overdose deaths, compared to 800 deaths in 2014. Of the 886 drug overdose deaths, 15 percent involved fentanyl. In the previous years, fentanyl was relatively uncommon in New York City, with fewer than 3 percent of overdose deaths involving fentanyl.
  • Assessment and Surveillance: Increase capacity to conduct surveillance of opioid misuse citywide to identify emerging drug-related trends, and design intervention efforts.
  • Expand Naloxone Distribution: The City will fund distribution of 7,500 additional naloxone kits for community-based organizations serving people at risk for overdose, and will hire peer educators to enhance capacity to distribute naloxone.
  • Harm Reduction and Expanded Outreach and Engagement Services: Expand harm reduction and outreach engagement programs, including mobile outreach and drop-in centers to serve an additional 12,000 individuals.

Last December as a part of Thrive NYC, Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady announced three major steps to combat the increase in unintentional opioid-involved overdose deaths.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett signed a standing order that significantly increased the availability of Naloxone. Today naloxone is available for purchase at more than 650 pharmacies across the city. The standing order built upon the de Blasio Administration’s efforts to increase access to naloxone in New York City. In May 2015, the Administration announced additional funding of more than $750,000 to distribute naloxone kits at no cost to opioid overdose prevention programs in at-risk communities.

Additionally, ThriveNYC plans to add over 1,000 new providers over the next three years who are trained and authorized to prescribe buprenorphine, a life-saving medication that treats opioid addiction by stopping cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Though the medication is successful, many patients lack easy access to it. The City’s efforts will focus on expanding the number of primary care physician practices certified to prescribe buprenorphine. This September, the Obama Administration announced its intent to relax rules that will expand the patient limit for buprenorphine prescribers.

Finally, Administration established the “Mayor’s Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force.” Health Commissioner Bassett and Staten Island Borough President Oddo co-chair the task force. The Task Force has been meeting regularly, most recently in Brooklyn.

Borough President Jimmy Oddo said, "Thank you to the the Administration ‎for these new initiatives that will help further address the ongoing opioid epidemic that continues to negatively affect too many Staten Islanders. I would like to particularly note the new non-fatal overdose response program, which will provide crucial follow up for those who survived an overdose and are particularly vulnerable to further overdoses. It is clear city government is taking seriously the drug crisis we are facing as a community."

“The scourge of opioid addiction afflicts families in every neighborhood of Brooklyn, as thousands of people have become addicted to prescription painkillers and then switch to heroin,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Each death from an overdose signals that we have a public health crisis. I commend Mayor de Blasio and DOHMH Commissioner Bassett for recognizing these signals and investing in prevention and treatment programs that will save lives and end this epidemic.”

"Too many parents have buried their children or watched them go in and out of rehab. Enough. This battle is best fought at the local level by experts who know their community, and I applaud the Mayor for the initiatives he announced today. The federal government needs to provide the tools to win, and I'm continuing the fight in Washington for comprehensive legislation to assist with education, treatment and enforcement," said Congressman Dan Donovan.

“This comprehensive set of initiatives will help address the opioid drugs epidemic that plagues our city, reduce health care costs in the long-term, and promote healthier communities and families. The use of pain killers and heroin have increased to alarming levels in recent years, we must address the root causes by focusing on both prevention and treatment, and that’s precisely what these investments will do. As a Member of the Mayor’s Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force, I applaud Mayor de Blasio for making this issue a priority,” said Congressman José Serrano.

“Mayor de Blasio is launching a comprehensive, well-thought out approach, backed with resources, for reducing a major public health threat in New York and across the country,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfied, Chair of the Committee on Health. “The rest of the state and country should follow the City’s lead.”

"I am so pleased to see the City take desperately needed steps to to prevent and treat substance abuse disorder among New York City residents," said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. "The City's holistic approach to addiction treatment and prevention recognizes the complex nature of the disease and directs funding to a wide variety of supports and will undoubtedly help to save countless lives."

Assembly Member Michael Cusick said, “As Staten Island and the rest of our city and state continue to battle the heroin and opiate abuse epidemic, it is critical that all levels of government respond with immediate and decisive action. This funding attacks the crisis by implementing training for our medical professionals on appropriate opiate prescribing to prevent misuse of these potentially harmful drugs, for identifying and helping individuals who have overdosed regardless of the substance they were using, and expanding public awareness in at-risk neighborhoods. I especially want to recognize the de Blasio administration for recognizing the severity of the problem on Staten Island through their commitment to establishing a non-fatal overdose response system in a Staten Island neighborhood and by expanding the Staten Island Adolescent Program to treat more of our young people struggling with addiction.”

“We cannot end opioid addiction without investing in proper training for counselors, awareness campaigns, identifying the City’s most vulnerable areas and expanding our naloxone distribution. This dedication of funding is an asset to our communities and will help save lives,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health.

"The epidemic of opioid addiction in our City requires urgent action," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of Health Committee. “The City is taking a comprehensive approach to addressing this issue, including ensuring that New Yorkers have access to potentially life-saving resources. I want to thank Mayor De Blasio for his leadership on this issue and for appointing me as an ex-officio member of the Opioid Task Force."

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, said, "The proliferation of heroin and opioid use in our community, and our country, is an epidemic that necessitates serious investment and intervention. Today's announcement, that $5.5 million of our City's Fiscal Year 2017 budget will be dedicated to reducing the impact and use of these dangerous substances, represents our mayor and our health commissioner's commitment to the well-being of the people of New York and will provide life-saving assistance to countless New Yorkers and their families. As a representative of the community hit particularly hard by this heroin and opioid use, I am thankful to see a focus on harm reduction and services for nonfatal overdoses. I have been proud to be a member of the mayor's Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force and thank my fellow task force colleagues, Mayor de Blasio and Heath Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett for their attention to the public health of all New Yorkers."

Minority Leader Council Member Steven Matteo said, "Opioid addiction is a complex problem that requires an 'all-hands-on-deck' solution, from education and public outreach, to treatment and enforcement. I applaud the Mayor for these initiatives, which will provide use with valuable tools to continue to tackle this epidemic."

"The Mayor stepped up as the federal Sandy money ran dry. I am glad the administration was able to save this Staten Island Mental Health Society program, which is vital in combating opioid addiction among adolescents Staten Island. Over the past twelve months, 87 people participated in the long term program and they can now continue their counseling sessions on the South Shore," said Council Member Joe Borelli.

"This comprehensive approach to treating opioid addiction will save the lives of thousands of New Yorkers," said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Education. "This funding will help curb the overuse of prescription drugs and reduce transitions to heroin use. I am pleased to support this progressive initiative that focuses on prevention and recovery rather than ineffective punitive measures."

"This is an epidemic that effects far too many families across the Bronx and New York, and we need to do all we can to help prevent future tragedies," said Council Member Council Member Rafael Salamanca. "I'm pleased to see these investments being made."

"Increased outreach to the vulnerable populations, including by dispensing of naloxone, is vital to preventing overdose deaths. However, ensuring access to methadone and buprenorphine maintenance – in a way that is acceptable to those in need – is key to preventing opioid overdoses from occurring at all," said Dr. Sharon Stancliff, Medical Director for the Harm Reduction Coalition.

"Overdose has been a crisis for years and I do what I do because of losing so many people in my community," said Terrell Jones, Outreach and Advocacy Program Manager at NY Harm Reduction Educators, which offers naloxone, syringe exchange and other harm reduction services in East Harlem. "I'm grateful to the City today for not only recognizing the problem but backing it up with an investment in proven public health strategies."

Matt Curtis, Policy Director at VOCAL New York, said, "these urgently needed initiatives will set the example for how cities all over the country can integrate frontline harm reduction services, innovative peer-based programs, public health surveillance and education to save lives. This action is also a reminder that people who use drugs are valuable members of our community. We're proud to stand with Mayor de Blasio to fight for our family and friends who are at risk of overdose."

“Tackling Youth Substance Abuse is pleased that the City has allocated additional resources to address the opioid epidemic crippling our community. The citywide strategies will strengthen our partners ability to educate, reach, and connect those in need of services with treatment. We are particularly pleased that funding of targeted services addressing adolescents has been included in this package. It is a critical component of the substance use prevention and treatment continuum and one that has been traditionally underfunded on Staten Island,” said Adrienne Abbate, Executive Director of the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness and Project Director of Tackling Youth Substance Abuse initiative.

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