De Blasio Administration Launches New Initiative To Combat Opioid Epidemic

City will invest $38 million annually to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35%

NEW YORK –  Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray launched HealingNYC, a new, comprehensive effort to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over the next 5 years. In 2016, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose which involved an opioid, the highest year on record. More New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined.

"The opioid epidemic is a growing crisis that affects not only users, but also their loved ones,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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."

"HealingNYC addresses an opioid crisis that requires a city-wide response to prevent overdose deaths and protect those at risk," said First Lady Chirlane 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."

"As a physician who has cared for many patients with opioid use disorders, I have seen firsthand the impact that effective treatment can have not only for people in recovery, but for their friends, family, and communities," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. "HealingNYC addresses the opioid epidemic through a bold, comprehensive plan that bridges public health and public safety in order to prevent overdoses and save more lives across New York City. I am proud to stand alongside Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray in their commitment to tackling this insidious problem head-on."

"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,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “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.

"Too many New Yorkers and their families continue to be affected by drug use and unintentional overdoses,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The fight to end the opioid epidemic in New York City has been a priority for this administration, but the growing presence of the drug fentanyl poses a new challenge that deserves an appropriate response and expanded resources. I'm proud to stand with Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray to address this public health crisis."

"The science behind the treatment for substance use disorders has made significant progress in recent years, but clinical advances reflecting that research progress have been slower,” said Interim CEO for NYC Health + Hospitals Stanley Brezenoff.  “This new effort will kick start better clinical care and allow us to help our patients to lead healthier lives."

"With deaths from opioids at three times the city's murders, we must address this issue with all the tools at our disposal," said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor's Office of criminal Justice. "This plan reflects a substantial investment in thought and resources to stem both supply and demand through education, prevention, health care, enforcement and the analytics that will help us understand what is working and what is not.

"Precise and timely data is central to the effort to reduce the availability of dangerous opioids in New York City," said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson. "The additional resources provided by HealingNYC will bolster the testing capacity of OCME and enhance our ability to rapidly share information with partners. By helping to improve understanding of the drug landscape, we hope to spare families and communities the pain of losing loved ones to the opioid epidemic."

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by more than 300. This dramatic increase is driven by the introduction of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than the painkiller morphine, into the supply of illicit drugs. Before 2015, fentanyl was involved in fewer than five percent of all overdose deaths in New York City. Almost 90 percent of fatal opioid overdoses in 2016 involved heroin or fentanyl, while 18 percent involved prescription opioid painkillers.

Through HealingNYC, the City will focus its efforts on four main goals to combat this epidemic, and invest $38 million annually at full ramp-up to implement the following strategies:

  • Prevent opioid overdose deaths – The City will distribute 100,000 naloxone kits to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York City Police Department, the Department of Social Services and Correctional Health Services, a division of NYC Health + Hospitals, so that healthcare providers, first responders and shelter providers can have access to the tools they need to save lives.
  • Prevent opioid misuse and addiction – In 2017, ThriveNYC will create additional mental health clinics in high-need schools that account for a disproportionate share of suspensions and mental health issues, which can be precursors for substance misuse. As part of the City’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about addiction and end the stigmas attached to seeking effective treatment, the City will build on “Save a Life, Carry Naloxone” public awareness campaign  and will connect up to five of the communities at highest risk with targeted prevention messages and care. The City will also educate clinicians on best practices for judicious prescribing, and expand the Nonfatal Overdose Response System (NORS) to a total of 10 high-risk neighborhoods, up from three from 2017 to 2019.
  • Connect New Yorkers to effective treatment – An additional 20,000 New Yorkers will have access to medication-assisted treatment by 2022. NYC Health + Hospitals will transform its substance use care models to become a system of excellence in addressing harmful opioid use. The City will also build on the work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice System to target treatment and expand resources in the criminal justice system.
  • Reduce the supply of dangerous opioids – In 2017, the Administration will make new investments in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the New York City Police Department to increase the kinds of testing and information sharing that the City needs to get a better understanding of the local drug environment. To build upon existing efforts in Staten Island, the New York City Police Department will create new Overdose Response Squads that will target dealers in other high-risk neighborhoods in New York City. The City will assign 84 detectives and hire 50 lab personnel at the New York City Police Department to combat this epidemic and disrupt the supply of opioids before they come into the city.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and NYC Health + Hospitals will lead the clinical application of this new work. Together, they will dramatically improve the quality of services and care for tens of thousands of New Yorkers whose live are impacted by opioid use—through prevention and heightened awareness, enhancing electronic health records, and innovative models to change clinical practice.

HealingNYC builds on the steps the City has already taken to address the opioid crisis. Last April, as part of ThriveNYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlaine McCray announced several major steps to address opioid overdoses, 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. In 2016, the City doubled its budget for its harm reduction and outreach engagement programs, to create more mobile outreach and drop-in centers to serve an additional 12,000 individuals.

New York City was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to widely distribute naloxone. Since late 2009, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has dispensefd naloxone to opioid overdose prevention programs across the city, distributing more than 15,000 kits to targeted programs and communities in Fiscal Year 2016. In 2013, the New York City Police Department began distributing naloxone to officers in Staten Island and has since expanded it approach, distributing more 13,000 naloxone kits across the city. In 2014, the City established one of the country’s first jail-based naloxone distribution programs at the Riker’s Island Visitor Center, run by Correctional Health Services which is a division of NYC Health + Hospitals. The Department of Homeless Services began training its shelter providers in naloxone administration, with a goal of ensuring 24/7 coverage and reducing overdose.

"We must use every tool at our disposal to combat the opioid addiction crisis that is continuing to destroy the lives of New Yorkers in New York City and around the state,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “I welcome Mayor de Blasio's innovative HealingNYC initiative, which seeks to strategically attack this epidemic from all angles. I am proud of the work my office has done to fight the scourge of addiction, from making naloxone more affordable for hundreds of communities across the state, to removing barriers to life-saving addiction treatment -- and we will continue to work with Mayor de Blasio and our partners in government to ensure that those New Yorkers struggling with addiction receive the help and support they need."

Public Advocate Letitia James said: “The opioid epidemic must be treated like the public health crisis that it is, one that is tearing apart families and communities. This investment in critical treatment, prevention, and awareness efforts is exactly what our City needs to reverse this deadly cycle of abuse. We must continue to focus on alleviating this problem and ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to these much-needed resources.”

Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo said: “While this is a complex and multi-faceted issue to solve, the simple fact is Staten Islanders continue to die at an astonishing rate. This necessitates a strong response from government on every level, including the allocation of sufficient resources to adequately combat the problem. The sad fact is there is no one silver bullet that will solve the problem alone, which is why it so important to focus on all aspects of the problem, including increased law enforcement resources to slow the supply of these deadly drugs, education to prevent opioid misuse in the first place, increased treatment options to help those caught in addiction find a way out, and every means possible to help save the lives of those who are overdosing.” 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said: "To combat the opioid crisis facing our city, we must stem the supply, address the factors that have helped create the demand, as well as provide the resources that can help those currently struggling and at risk for addiction, misuse, and/or overdose. I appreciate the de Blasio Adminstration's investment in strategies to meet these challenges, as we work together to save lives in Brooklyn and beyond."

Congressman Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) said: “The opioid epidemic is a crisis that has touched so many families in our city. Expanding resources to help combat the problem is imperative, so I applaud Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray for spearheading the HealingNYC campaign and allocating these desperately needed resources to the fight.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “I commend Mayor de Blasio for devoting significant resources to battle the scourge of opioid addiction and the tragic overdose deaths that are mounting in my beloved borough and other places in the City. “The initiatives announced today will go a long way toward reducing those casualties.  In addition, it will supply law enforcement with needed funds to help us disrupt the criminal networks of those who would poison those victimized by addiction. These initiatives complement our aggressive investigations and prosecutions of these heartless profiteers.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said: "The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency in New York City and across the country. As always, the only way we are going to be successful is by working together – public health and public safety, side-by-side with the communities we serve. This significant investment will help build safe and healthy neighborhoods across our city."

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said: “I commend the Mayor for recognizing the crisis we are facing and the need to marshal all of our resources to end the opioid epidemic. My office remains committed to a comprehensive approach involving the criminal justice system that includes education, treatment, and also the removal of dangerous drug dealers from our streets, because we must stop the loss of so many young and promising lives.”

"What we have seen in the last year is that the heroin and opioid nightmare has gone from an epidemic to a plague. This is the life and death crisis of our time,” said Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. “I am very encouraged that the Administration is getting behind a multi-pronged approach and expanding some of the projects we have embarked on already on Staten Island. In recent months, we on Staten Island have begun to see hope where there previously was none and this new initiative gives us, and the entire City, more tools to build upon that success.” I am pleased and grateful that the Mayor and his Administration recognize that we need to pull together both public health and public safety partners to effectively confront this historic challenge.”

“Fighting back against the opioid epidemic requires a long-term commitment to a varied and far-reaching set of supports. With federal cuts to drug treatment programs looming, collaboration between the city and state to address the growing scope of this crisis is vital,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF – Manhattan), Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “The introduction of fentanyl and other deadly synthetics to an already vicious epidemic, has only added to the urgency for new programming and channels of support. Working to distribute naloxone kits, increasing access to mental health clinics in schools and educating clinicians throughout New York City is a strong and necessary approach, and I commend this effort.”

“As Staten Islanders know all too well, opioid use is devastating families and communities. I am heartened that the Mayor is implementing this comprehensive approach, recognizing that the epidemic is a public health as well as a criminal justice issue, and that we will need to tackle this problem from all sides if we wish to contain it,” said Assemblymember Matthew Titone. Dealing with drug use is uncomfortable for all involved, but we cannot let preconceived notions prevent us from making honest assessments of what works and what doesn’t work; there are too many lives at stake.”

"I applaud Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for spearheading the fight against this growing epidemic with a multi-pronged approach of education, prevention, treatment and enforcement,” said Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda‎.‎ “Opioid abuse has become far too common, not just in our city alone. I hope this new initiative becomes a successful example for others in the state and nation to follow.”

“New York City is once again leading the fight against substance abuse with the launch of HealingNYC,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services. “Through the distribution of naloxone kits, connecting New Yorkers to effective treatment and reducing drug supply in our City, we will stem the opioid epidemic and save lives.  I applaud Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for their ongoing efforts and I look forward to continue working with them to combat addiction and substance abuse.”

“Addressing this crisis takes a proactive, comprehensive approach, and that’s what the Mayor is delivering with HealingNYC,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “This is a plan that puts lives first, and places much-needed resources into treatment and mental health services. Mayor de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and our Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have been tireless in addressing the mental health needs of our citizens, and I thank them for this well-crafted plan.”

Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo said: "This new initiative recognizes what many of my colleagues and I have been saying for years: Addiction to opioids has become a public health crisis, and it requires a comprehensive, all-hands-on-deck strategy to effectively tackle it. I credit the Mayor and his team for taking these steps to help prevent further tragedy and look forward to working with him to ensure we direct some of these vital resources to the communities in Staten Island that desperately them."

Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson said: “As we continue to address the challenges that New Yorkers face with opioid addictions and overdoses, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive and targeted plan to stop this epidemic in its tracks.  I am proud that today our Mayor Bill deBlasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray have launched HealingNYC, our efforts to prevent opioid abuse, addictions and misuse.  As the representative of a Bronx community that faces opioid abuse in large numbers, it is important to invest in outreach and treatment programs that are effective and targeted to vulnerable low income communities of color.  I applaud the efforts to partner with health professionals, social service providers and law enforcement to educate New Yorkers on effective treatment and target the dealers of opioid and not victimize users.  HealingNYC has the ability to provide an array of services to prevent deaths, reduce addictions and overall raise the level of awareness of opioid and bring to light the harsh realities that New Yorkers face struggling with opioid addictions.  I look forward to the implementation of HealingNYC across our City and in particular, the investments that will be made in the Bronx and Staten Island who have been affected the most.  Thanks to our Mayor and First Lady for their commitment, creativity and efforts to address opioid overdoses in our City.  Together, we will end this public health and public safety epidemic."

“Opioid misuse is an epidemic that hits close to home for many New Yorkers, so it’s critical that each of us learn how to intervene in a crisis or connect to effective treatment,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the City Council General Welfare Committee. “This summer, our office hosted a naloxone training and my staff learned the simple steps to prevent overdose, so I am pleased thatHealingNYC will help more community members acquire the skills they need to successfully save a life.”

“It’s very meaningful to me to see Mayor de Blasio launch this important new initiative right here in the South Bronx, where as a community we have been working diligently to find solutions to the opiate crisis afflicting our families,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “Even though we are facing a national drug epidemic with opioids, we cannot lose sight of the problems right here in the Bronx, where drug violence and addiction have been problems for many years, if not decades. That’s why I applaud Mayor de Blasio for bringing solutions to this issue to our community, and why I stand ready to work very hard with him to eliminate opioid addictions and overdoses.”

“With overdose numbers at alarming rates, it remains clear that we must combat addiction on several fronts,” said Council Member Deborah Rose. “These investments in mental health care, drug treatment and enforcement represent a multi-pronged approach that will hopefully combat this epidemic effectively and save the lives of countless New Yorkers.”

“The recognition that this is truly a public health crisis will finally bring the guns to bear on this problem which have long been needed. This is a problem which can be mitigated by the expansion of programs, access to counseling, and expanded law enforcement capabilities,” said Council Member Joseph Borelli.

New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said: “The black market drug supply in New York City is saturated with deadly fentanyl concoctions.  Fentanyl is mixed in with heroin, cocaine, and counterfeit pills, and anyone who uses any amount of illegal drugs risks exposure to a lethal dose. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for recognizing that there is no silver bullet solution, and committing to a holistic strategy.  I look forward to effective collaborations with our partners in law enforcement and public health.”

“The opioid epidemic has touched virtually every American and defies simple, one-size fits all solutions. HealingNYC takes a comprehensive and compassionate approach to one of the most complex public health challenges of our time. The program targets opioid abuse at every level: from patient and family education to engaging physicians in safer prescribing, to enabling more robust addiction treatment across the city. I applaud NYC for taking a bold step towards making an impact and saving lives in this crisis,” said Michael L. Barnett, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

"Mayor de Blasio is showing the leadership needed to confront the nation's leading killer with some simple steps that will immediately save lives, such as more naloxone deployed and non-fatal overdose interventions.  More importantly, the Mayor and New York City are elevating the attention the disease of addiction demands and the people and families who are suffering deserve. Today is the start of a long hard journey that New Yorkers are uniquely tough enough to handle," said Jim Hood, CEO and Co-Founder of Facing Addiction.

"Overdose prevention and reversal, syringe access, and other innovative harm reduction strategies are key to stemming overdose deaths in New York City. We are eager to work collaboratively with Mayor de Blasio, HealingNYC and ThriveNYC to shift the dialog concerning substance misuse away from stigma and punishment in favor of the health and wellness of all New Yorkers," said  Jose M. Davila, President & CEO of BOOM!Health.

Dr. Frank Proscia, President, Doctors Council SEIU said: “Every day, our front line doctors at public hospitals and correctional facilities have seen the damaging and fatal effects of drug related overdose deaths, especially those related to prescription and non-prescription opioids. Doctors Council SEIU commends the administration for introducing HealingNYC, a comprehensive proposal to fight this multifaceted and serious public health problem. The recommendations in HealingNYC recognize the role that public healthcare facilities and professionals play in delivering care to those suffering from substance abuse, identifying community needs and recommending proactive solutions to address New York City's opioid abuse problem.  The availability of naloxone in public facilities and various settings will be critical to addressing this issue - this drug is critical to saving lives. HealingNYC also prioritizes mental health services, awareness campaigns and keeping these drugs off the street – all of which are much needed preventative measures.  Doctors Councils SEIU commends the Mayor's thorough and thoughtful approach and we stand prepared to partner in this important effort."

“As the Mayor and First Lady acknowledge with their announcement today, the opioid epidemic is a crisis which demands attention and resources. I am grateful to be doing this work in a City where our Mayor and First Lady not only champion the effort but provides critical resources for success,” said Diane Arneth, Community Health Action of Staten Island, a Member of Brightpoint Health.

“The Legal Action Center applauds Mayor DeBlasio and his team for this comprehensive plan, which will help to stem the epidemic of opioid addiction and death in New York City, and ultimately will save thousands of lives each year,” said Paul Samuels, Legal Action Center. In addition to strengthening the overall network of care for substance use disorders throughout New York City, Healing NYC includes innovative approaches to support individuals following an overdose and those involved in the criminal justice system. This program will be a national model for cities throughout the country that are grappling with this terrible epidemic.”

Christy Parque, MSW, President& CEO at The Coalition for Behavioral Health, Inc. said: “Healing NYC is a comprehensive step forward to address New York’s opioid crisis. By seeking to stem the flow of opioids, executing a comprehensive education campaign and putting lifesaving protocols in the hands of first responders and seasoned behavioral health workers, will undoubtedly change the trajectory of this crisis. We applaud the Mayor, the First Lady, Deputy Mayor Palacio and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their leadership, vision and solid commitment of services and funding to save lives.”

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