De Blasio Administration Launches Comprehensive Effort to Reduce Opioid Misuse and Overdose Deaths Across the City

December 7, 2015

City to make naloxone, overdose-reversing medication, available without a prescription at participating pharmacies in New York City

New data shows 56 percent increase in unintentional opioid overdose deaths since 2010

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray today announced that beginning immediately, naloxone, a safe medication that can prevent death from opioid overdose, is available in pharmacies without a prescription.

“Last year, this city experienced the equivalent of more than one fatal opioid overdose a day,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These are people whose lives, once filled with promise, have been upended, leaving families to struggle with deep, lasting pain. We won’t accept this as our fate as a city – and we’ve resolved to do something about it.”

“For any New Yorker who has ever worried about a loved one struggling with opioid dependency, today's announcement is an enormous relief. Anyone who fears they will one day find their child, spouse or sibling collapsed on the floor and not breathing now has the power to walk into a neighborhood pharmacy and purchase the medication that can reverse that nightmare. Not one more friend, not one more loved one must be mourned because life-saving medicines weren't easily available,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “With a simple nasal spray or injection – that is as easy to use as an EpiPen – we can end opioid overdose deaths in our city.”

“With more than one opioid related death per day, unintentional opioid overdose death is taking a tremendous toll on New York City, especially on Staten Island and in parts of the Bronx and Brooklyn,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Lives are being unnecessarily cut short. We can and will do more to protect New Yorkers against the dangers of prescription painkillers, heroin and other opioids. By issuing a standing order for naloxone and building capacity in our health networks’ ability to treat the people most in need, we will save more lives and reduce deaths.”

“I am grateful to the Administration for recognizing the severity of the problem we are facing on Staten Island, and for taking important action to help address it. For the past decade on Staten Island we have seen this problem continue to grow, first in the shadows and then out in the open. We have seen far too many friends and neighbors die early deaths because of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. This is a problem that we as a community must own, keep out in the open, and not be ashamed to talk about or discuss. Like any problem, it demands a multi-faceted approach, including a new, smart effort to teach kids about healthy decision making before they start using drugs. We really are in a battle for the lives of too many Staten Islanders, and need to use all available tools, including education, increased treatment options, and increased naloxone availability to save lives,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.

Unintentional opioid-involved overdose deaths have increased by 56 percent since 2010, as a result of the use of heroin and opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Today’s action, authorized by Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, will significantly increase the availability of this life saving drug to anyone who is, or knows someone who is, at risk of overdose. The American Medical Association recommends that naloxone be available for purchase in pharmacies without a prescription.

Naloxone is available for purchase at most Rite Aid pharmacies throughout the city as of today, as well as at participating independent pharmacies. CVS/pharmacy and dozens of additional independent pharmacies will distribute naloxone by the end of the month. Duane Reade and Walgreens will continue to work with New York City to allow for the dispensing of naloxone without a prescription in the near future.

Naloxone can save lives when administered to an overdosing person by bystanders or first responders. The administration strongly encourages individuals who are likely to witness an opioid overdose, including individuals at risk for opioid overdose themselves as well as their friends and family, to become trained in overdose prevention. New Yorkers can visit nyc.gov/health and search for “Prevent Overdose” or call 311 to find a participating pharmacy. The standing order makes it possible for any pharmacy in the city to sign up and dispense naloxone. Pharmacists interested in dispensing naloxone under the standing order should visit our website for more information (search term: “Pharmacy Naloxone”).

The standing order builds upon the de Blasio Administration’s efforts to increase access to naloxone in New York City. In May, 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. 

In concert with easier access to naloxone, the Administration announced as a part of 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.
The de Blasio Administration is also establishing the Ad Hoc “Mayor’s Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force.” Health Commissioner Bassett and Staten Island Borough President Oddo will co-chair the task force. The task force will design a citywide public engagement effort to educate New Yorkers about the resources available to prevent opioid-related deaths. Additionally, the new task force will also craft a plan to recruit primary care providers and pharmacists citywide to deliver new resources to communities and families affected by heroin and opioid prescription painkillers and leverage the City’s new resource commitments.    

“I am pleased that my office will be represented on the Ad Hoc Mayor’s Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney,” said New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “My office takes opioid abuse seriously, and we are always looking for new ways to combat it. In 2014, I created the Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, which has saved more than 100 lives across the state by putting naloxone in the hands of New York law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel. My office also spearheaded the creation of the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, which has reduced doctor shopping by 75 percent across the state. I look forward to expanding my office’s success in reducing opioid abuse and overdose by taking part in this important effort led by Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray.”

"At a time when our city is facing a rise in opioid use, I am encouraged by the Mayor’s expanded approach to not only dealing with the problem, but preventing it,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “This initiative is a real commitment to those living with addiction, and through education and increased availability of naloxone and buprenorphine, we will not only prevent the tragedies of overdose, but additionally provide a safe and affordable path for those seeking recovery."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said, "The Mayor's initiative to expand access to naloxone is critically important because it will help address the heroin and opioid crisis in New York City, which has enormous public health and public safety consequences. This innovative measure will remove barriers to accessing this life-saving drug, and will hopefully help individuals suffering from this debilitating addiction a chance to begin their recovery. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to continue working with his administration and other City, State, and federal partners to reduce the devastating impact of drugs in our communities."

"Making naloxone available over the counter is an important step in saving lives from the scourge of heroin. This antidote can save lives and it makes sense to ensure that those who need it most have access to it. We've lost far too many young people to heroin overdoses in recent years, including 116 in Brooklyn alone last year," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

"Sadly, too many Staten Islanders are losing their friends and family to heroin and prescription drug overdoses – an epidemic that has become a plague on our city and that necessitates a comprehensive response from law enforcement, health professionals, educators, social workers, parents, students, and anyone affected by addiction,” said Richmond County District Attorney-Elect Michael McMahon. “Although we need to do more to prevent illegal drug use and the ready supply of heroin and opioids from the outset, as well as to provide treatment for those suffering from addiction, today’s action by the City to increase the availability to naloxone will undoubtedly save lives. Naloxone has already prevented dozens of deaths on Staten Island when administered by law enforcement, and by making it available to the public over-the-counter, the City is empowering New Yorkers who live each day with fear that they will lose a loved one to an overdose with the tools to prevent tragedy. I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and our partners in City government to develop strategies and initiatives to contain and end this epidemic."

"The opioid epidemic is a true crisis. Too many parents have buried their sons and daughters, and we must combat this scourge with all of the resources at our disposal,” said Congressman Dan Donovan. “As DA, I equipped every officer on Staten Island with naloxone. I know how effective it is, and I'm glad to see Mayor de Blasio use this life-saving tool citywide. This is not a political issue – I look forward to partnering with republicans and democrats alike to achieve results."

"The dramatic increase in addiction to opioids such as prescription narcotics and heroin in recent years has exacted a terrible toll on New Yorkers,” said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. “The cost in lives destroyed and financial resources of communities across the United States continues to mount. This initiative has the potential to reduce the number of deaths from overdoses and to support individuals who have become addicted in their recovery. I commend Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to significantly reducing the suffering that has resulted from the opioid epidemic."

"The explosion of opioid abuse across the country has created a nationwide epidemic, and New York has not been immune," said Congressman Eliot Engel, a Senior Member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. "If we don't take significant steps right now to curtail the problem, the explosion of overdose deaths we have already seen in the last five years will only become more prolific. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for expanding access to the lifesaving drugs naloxone and buprenorphine, and for launching a task force to develop effective strategies for combatting opioid abuse. Those suffering from addiction have a difficult road to tread, but these steps will go a long way toward offering them the help and support they need."

"I applaud Mayor, the Council and ThriveNYC for investing in a vital public health initiative that will have a lasting impact on our communities. We can alter the course of drug abuse by increasing awareness on its dangers and crippling effects on one's entire family and neighborhood,” said Congressman Charles B. Rangel. “Too many have ached to witness how drugs can ruin a life of a loved one. I encourage everyone to spread the word about these critical resources and pledge to live a drug-free life.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, "This initiative will target resources to some of our neighbors most in need, helping save lives. With opioid overdoses on the rise, it is important our City work to address this growing problem and I applaud the Mayor for taking these proactive steps."

“I am proud to work with Mayor de Blasio and our local and state partners to combat the rise in prescription drug and heroin overdoses across New York. Too many families in Queens have had to deal with the heartbreaking effects of these overdoses, and this critical funding will help prevent more abuse and save lives,” said Congressman Steve Israel.

State Senator Diane J. Savino said, "First, I would like to applaud the Mayor's office for recognizing the need all across New York City for ThriveNYC. Secondly, I would like to thank both Dr. Mary Basset of the Department of Mental Health and Mental Hygiene and Borough President Jimmy Oddo for heading this new task force here in Staten Island. With the rise of opioid abuse in our borough, there has been a large cry for help from our constituents and now, thanks to ThriveNYC and its new task force, families dealing with these issues who once had very few resources available to them will now have some place to turn.”

"Heroin and opiate addiction have devastating effects on so many New Yorkers and their families," said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Committee on Health. "It's important that Mayor de Blasio and other City leaders are working on ways to address this growing health crisis and promoting concrete solutions, like making buprenorphine and naloxone more widely available to curb dependency and addiction and reduce drug overdose deaths."

“Last year alone more than 400,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for a heroin overdose according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heroin overdose death rates have quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, with more than 8,200 deaths impacting communities all across our city and state. One major contributor to this problem is the number of prescriptions issued for hydrocodone and oxycodone, which have skyrocketed to 207 million in 2013. These figures tell us that a tremendous amount of work and effort will be needed to combat the scourge of this heroin and opioid use epidemic,” said Assembly Member Marcos A. Crespo, Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. “With many of the over 60,000 intravenous drug users in Puerto Rico heading to New York and other major cities for detoxification services like methadone treatment, Mayor de Blasio’s focus on this problem is welcomed and strongly supported.”

“As Staten Island continues to fight the scourge of drug abuse, it is critical that we remain vigilant and attack this problem from all angles. Senator Lanza and I authored landmark I-STOP legislation in New York State, allowing prescriptions to be tracked and monitored to prevent these opioids from falling into the wrong hands,” said Assembly Member Michael Cusick. “Since the passage of the I-STOP law, abuse rates have declined and so called ‘doctor shopping’ has been stymied. Today’s announcement, including the expansion of patient access to buprenorphine and an aggressive public outreach campaign is a welcome addition to the battle against opioid abuse, and I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for recognizing the serious nature of this issue.”

"Buprenorphine and naloxone are the tools we know that can take some of the tragedy out of opioid addiction. This new initiative will help to put these tools in the hands of those on the front lines of this epidemic. Greater access to these drugs will unequivocally save lives. I thank the Administration for their leadership on this important issue," said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health.

“We are losing too many of our children, too many of our family members, too many of our friends to opioid addiction,” said Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. “It is not just a Staten Island problem, it is a New York City problem and a national problem, and it will require a determined, multi-pronged and intensive effort from all levels of government and all facets of our community to solve. I applaud the Mayor for addressing this epidemic by making these life-saving anti-overdose and anti-addiction medications available and I look forward to working with members of his Administration on the opioid addiction task force to continue to seek solutions.”

"Immediate action is needed to address the epidemic of opioid addiction in our city," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. ‎"We know how to fight addiction and prevent overdose deaths, and we must make it a priority, 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.”

“Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for inviting me to participate in his newly formed task force to address opioid misuse deaths on Staten Island. I look forward to further studying this crisis which is impacting so many people on Staten Island and formulating strategies that will truly address the underlying mental health aspects of this tragic epidemic,” said Council Member Deborah Rose.

Council Member Joseph Borelli said, “Staten Island has seen an uptick in the number of opioid deaths like nowhere else in the country. As with any problem in our city, resources have to be brought to bear where and when they are needed. However, unlike other challenges our city faces, people most affected are hesitant to come forward and admit there is a problem in their family or in their neighborhood. Forming this task force is the right step, and I am encouraged by the new methods to curtail overdose deaths and the amount of drugs on our streets.”

“Naloxonesaves lives and making this drug available without a prescription is critical to our overall goal of reducing opioid related deaths in the City of New York,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and DOHMH Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett for taking this bold step and continuing our collective efforts to craft anti-drug policy that focuses on prevention rather than punishment. I am proud to join the Mayor's Heroin and Prescription Opioid Awareness Taskforce and look forward to working with my colleagues and all of the stakeholders to devise innovative solutions to combat opioid abuse.

"Long before I came to the City Council, I worked in the field of substance abuse,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy. “I've seen the devastating effect that opioid addition has on the lives and hopes of addicted individuals and their families, and the way it shakes our communities' sense of order. But I also know that this addiction can be defeated, with former users going on to live rich, happy and productive lives. In our progressive city, the medication and the will exists to save lives and restore the chance for a sober future. With thanks to Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady for the invitation, I pledge to represent central Brooklyn on this taskforce to the very best of my ability."

“Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by expanding access to this medication in our New York City pharmacies by the use of a physician’s standing order for patients without a prescription, we can help save lives," said Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS/pharmacy. "We support expanding naloxone availability without a prescription in our communities through standing order and collaborative practice agreements and we applaud the de Blasio Administration for taking this important step in the fight against drug abuse and addiction.”

“Rite Aid takes the role we play in the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves very seriously,” said Jennifer Castorina, Rite Aid Regional Pharmacy Vice President for New York City. “We are committed to helping to reduce the number of deaths caused by opioid overdose, and that’s why we are providing access to naloxone in our pharmacies citywide.”

“We fully support Mayor de Blasio's effort to increase access to naloxone. As drug overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States, Walgreens/Duane Reade is working to make naloxone as accessible as possible in the communities we serve. While naloxone is currently available today to all of our pharmacies nationwide, we will continue to work with policy makers to allow for the dispensing of the medication without a prescription in the near future, which would lead to greater patient accessibility to this medication,” said Anthony J. Riso, RPh, Regional Healthcare Director for Duane Reade, Walgreen Co.

“We pharmacists enter our profession because we care about helping people – especially in our role as the single most easily accessible healthcare providers in New York City. We welcome this latest chance to save even more lives as we help combat prescription drug abuse, especially opioid overdose, in the many neighborhoods we proudly serve,” said Ron DelGaudio, President of the New York City Pharmacist Society (NYCPS).

"Removing barriers to naloxone and increasing the number of buprenorphine prescribers are two common sense policies that we're glad New York City is implementing," said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Municipalities have a great deal of power to implement innovative drug policies that recognize and respect the dignity and agency of our most impacted communities. Today's announcement shows that New York City is moving towards a public health approach to drugs and drug policies. We hope New York State's Department of Health will work with other municipalities statewide to implement these life-saving polices."

"Appropriately administered, there are very few examples of treatments more effective than buprenorphine for opioid dependence and naloxone for heroin overdose. Increasing the availability of trained personnel to administer these medications will save lives and change the destructive course of many New Yorkers and their families affected by substance use disorders,” said Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, President of The New York Academy of Medicine.

"No New Yorker should be hearing about buprenorphine and naloxone for the first time after losing a loved one to overdose. The new initiatives announced today will both raise awareness and increase access to these critical medications," said Dr. Sharon Stancliff, Medical Director at the Harm Reduction Coalition and Board Member of the NY Society of Addiction Medicine.

"A comprehensive continuum of prevention, treatment, recovery support, and harm reduction services is essential to adequately address the opiate addiction and overdose crisis facing our communities. Mayor de Blasio’s announcements today are a cause for hope that lives will be saved and more people will find recovery from their addiction," said John Coppola MSW, Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Inc.

“Opioid misuse and addiction have been on the rise for over a decade. I'm very pleased to be part of the solution by participating on the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force. Addiction is a chronic illness and requires medical treatment. Improving access to treatment with buprenorphine and naloxone is critical to making real improvements in individual and public health,” said Chinazo Cunningham, MD, MS, Associate Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center.

"Too many lives are lost each year to opioid dependency and accidental overdose. We applaud Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Bassett and the Administration's efforts to greatly expand access to naloxone and buprenorphine," said Dr. Frank Proscia, President of Doctors Council SEIU. "Along with greater access to these lifesaving drugs, the Administration's commitment to increasing the number of trained providers puts New York City at the forefront of combatting this epidemic. These efforts will help save lives and aid in treating opioid addiction."

"We applaud DOHMH's leadership in taking action to make these medications much more widely available to all New Yorkers at risk and in need, and look forward to supporting the work of the Mayor's Ad Hoc Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force," said Daniel Raymond, Policy Director at the Harm Reduction Coalition. “One of the most painful facts of the overdose crisis is that we know how to save lives – buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder dramatically reduces overdose risk, and timely administration of naloxone reverses an opioid overdose.” 

“People who use drugs are saving each other’s lives from overdose every day because they have access to naloxone and the knowledge to respond in an emergency. That wouldn't be possible without the strongest collaboration between DOHMH, community-based harm reduction organizations, and people who use drugs themselves," said Matt Curtis, Policy Director at VOCAL New York.

“The Bronx has the highest rates of heroin-related deaths in the city, and we need more leadership and dedicated resources to transform the lives of those affected in the Bronx and beyond,” said Jose M. Davila, President and CEO of BOOM!Health. “At BOOM!Health, through our Sea of Blue campaign, we've been able to provide opioid overdose reversal training to all sectors of the community and serve the health needs of active drug users. We applaud the Mayor's efforts to create a task force to address the opioid epidemic and dramatically expand access to naloxone to all New Yorkers.”

“Mayor de Blasio, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, First Lady McCray, and NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett are to be commended for their timely and aggressive actions in undertaking the public health and public safety problem caused by the rapidly worsening epidemic of heroin and prescription drug dependence in our families and neighborhoods,” said Luke J Nasta, Executive Director of Camelot Counseling Centers. “Borough President Oddo has demonstrated brave leadership in searching for comprehensive solutions and I stand proudly by these progressive measures.”

“Tackling Youth Substance Abuse (TYSA) applauds the leadership of Mayor de Blasio, Staten Island Borough President Oddo, and NYC DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Bassett for not only recognizing the urgency of the opioid epidemic, but creating policies and allocating resources to support solutions,” said Adrienne Abbate, MPA, Executive Director of Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness. “The policies announced today will provide opportunities for New Yorkers in need to more readily access treatment and lifesaving medications for themselves and loved ones. These strategies build on the work that TYSA, a cross-sector coalition, and its partners have been advocating for over the past 4 years when the City first released the alarming opioid-related overdose statistics. Collective leadership, expertise and support is needed from all levels to address complex issues. We look forward to working with partners across the city to advance these life-saving policies.”

Unintentional Opioid Overdose Death Data

The Health Department today released new 2014 citywide data that shows a 56 percent increase in death rates attributed to opioid involved overdose in New York City, equating to more than one fatal opioid overdose per day since 2010. According to the new report, 79 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2014 involved an opioid, including opioid analgesics (prescription painkillers) and heroin. The rate of heroin overdose deaths increased for four consecutive years by 100 percent. Staten Island recorded the highest rate of heroin involved overdose deaths (11.5 per 100,000 residents) and the highest rate of opioid analgesic-involved overdose deaths (7.8 deaths per 100,000 residents); however, more than half of overdose deaths involving heroin occurred among residents of the Bronx and Brooklyn. More borough-specific data from 2013 is available here.

Ad Hoc Mayor’s Heroin and Prescription Opioid Public Awareness Task Force members include:

  • Chairs, DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo
  • Jo Ivey Boufford, M.D., President of the New York Academy of Medicine
  • Ron Del Gaudio, President of the New York City Pharmacists Society
  • Chinazo Cunningham M.D., M.S., Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Associate Division Chief, General Internal Medicine and Director of Buprenorphine Treatment Program at South Bronx Montefiore FQHC.
  • Sharon Stancliff, M.D., Medical Director of the Harm Reduction Coalition and Secretary of the New York Society of Addiction Medicine
  • John Coppola, MSW, Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, Inc.
  • Terrell Jones, Member of VOCAL-NY
  • Ian A. Shaffer, MD, MMM, CPE, Vice President & Executive Medical Director, Behavioral Health
  • Jose Davila, MPH, President and CEO of BOOM! Health
  • Diane Arneth, RN MPH, President and CEO of Community Health Action of Staten Island
  • Adrienne Abbate, Executive Director of Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness
  • Luke J. Nasta, Executive Director of Camelot
  • Paul Mahoney, Chief, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Office of the Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
  • Dan Tietz, Chief Special Services Officer, New York City Human Resources Administration  
  • Council Member Andy Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health
  • Ex Officio
    • Council Member Joe Borelli, Staten Island
    • Council Member Rob Cornegy, Brooklyn
    • Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Bronx
    • Council Member Corey Johnson, Manhattan
    • Council Member Steve Matteo, Staten Island
    • Council Member Deborah Rose, Staten Island
    • Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, Bronx
    • Assembly Member Michael Cusick, Staten Island
    • Assembly Member, Richard Gottfried, Manhattan
    • Assembly Member, Latoya Joyner, Bronx
    • Assembly Member Cathy Nolan, Queens
    • Assembly Member Victor Pichardo, Bronx
    • Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan
    • State Senator Andrew Lanza, State Island
    • Congressman Dan Donovan, Brooklyn and Staten Island

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