Health Department Conducts Public Outreach to Warn New Yorkers About the Dangers of Fentanyl

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, was involved in approximately half of drug overdose deaths in New York City in 2016

Outreach targets neighborhoods with high rates of overdose deaths

May 19, 2017 — As part of HealingNYC and the City’s multi-pronged efforts to reduce overdose deaths, the Health Department today began a two-day opioid outreach campaign in New York City neighborhoods with high rates of opioid overdose deaths. Dozens of volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, a group of highly skilled public health professionals, and community-based harm reduction organizations will distribute health alert flyers on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The flyer uses evidence-based harm reduction messages that are known to reduce deaths and other harms associated with opioid drug use. Fentanyl is showing up in heroin, cocaine and counterfeit pills marked as Xanax®. Before 2015, fentanyl was involved in fewer than five percent of all overdose deaths in New York City, but in 2016, fentanyl was involved in approximately half of New York City overdose deaths.

Fentanyl poster

“The goal of this education campaign is to save lives. People who use drugs generally have no idea that fentanyl was added in and that they have a higher risk of overdose,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Avoiding illicit drug use is the best way to avoid fentanyl, but for New Yorkers who use drugs, there are ways to lower the likelihood of a fatal overdose. We don’t want to see more New Yorkers dying due to fentanyl.”

The flyer, titled Fentanyl is Killing New Yorkers, uses evidence-based harm reduction messaging to educate people who use drugs and prevent overdose deaths and other harmful outcomes. The health alert offers the following warnings:

  • Fentanyl is a dangerous opioid that’s showing up in heroin, cocaine, street pills marked as Xanax® and other drugs.
  • Fentanyl is involved in more overdose deaths than ever before.
  • Anyone using drugs, even casually, is at risk.
  • Avoiding drug use is the best way to protect yourself against fentanyl.

As part of a harm reduction strategy, the flyer also offers key safety messages specifically directed to people who use drugs, even if only occasionally. The flyer is available here.

Volunteers will target the following locations in the five boroughs with high rates of overdose deaths: Coney Island; Bensonhurst / Bay Ridge; Williamsburg / Bushwick; Bed Stuy / Crown Heights; Hunts Point / Mott Haven; Highbridge / Morrisania; Crotona / Tremont; Pelham / Throgs Neck; Fordham / Bronx Park; Union Square; Washington Heights / Inwood; East Harlem; Ridgewood; Stapleton / St. George; and South Beach / Tottenville.

The fentanyl flyer campaign is part of HealingNYC, the City’s initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over five years. HealingNYC is a $38 million investment spearheaded by Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray that also includes increasing naloxone distribution, increasing access to medication assisted treatment and promoting judicious opioid prescribing. You can learn more about HealingNYC here.

About the Medical Reserve Corps
The Health Department’s NYC Medical Reserve Corps (NYC MRC) is a volunteer group of highly skilled health care professionals who are committed to strengthen public health, improve emergency response capabilities and build community resiliency. NYC MRC’s 8,425 members may assist with mass sheltering operations, medical evaluation, medication distribution, patient education, screening, and psychological first aid. NYC MRC members also provide public health screenings and education in underserved neighborhoods throughout New York City in six languages.

For more information about opioid overdose prevention, naloxone and treatment services, search “prevent overdose” at nyc.gov/health.

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MEDIA CONTACT:Christopher Miller / Stephanie Buhle (347) 396-4177
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov