The City’s fentanyl outreach campaign will appear on coasters and posters in North Brooklyn nightlife venues, and the Health Department will offer naloxone training for staff
Fentanyl was detected in 39 percent of cocaine-involved overdose deaths without heroin in 2017, up from 11 percent in 2015
June 27, 2019 — The Health Department today launched a campaign in bars and nightclubs in Brooklyn to inform New Yorkers that fentanyl — an opioid 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin — has been detected in the cocaine supply. People who use cocaine, even occasionally, may be at risk of an opioid overdose. Health Department staff will visit bars and nightclubs in Williamsburg and Bushwick to offer coasters and posters that inform patrons that cocaine may contain fentanyl. All venues will be offered naloxone — the medication to reverse an opioid overdose — to keep on premises with first aid supplies, as well as training and kits for all interested staff.
In 2016 and 2017, fentanyl was found in 37 and 39 percent of overdose deaths involving cocaine without heroin, up from 11 percent in 2015. This suggests that some people who died from overdoses involving cocaine and fentanyl may not have intended to consume opioids. North Brooklyn was selected for the campaign because of its high density of bars and nightclubs and status as a nightlife destination for New Yorkers citywide. The Health Department is working with Brooklyn Allied Bars & Restaurants (BABAR) to reach bar and nightclub owners as well as staff. This campaign is an expansion of a pilot on the Lower East Side in May and June 2018.
“We want people who use cocaine occasionally to know that fentanyl may be mixed into cocaine and may increase their risk of an overdose,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Bars and nightclubs are an important avenue to reach people who use drugs with potentially lifesaving information. We need people who use cocaine to know that they should use with other people, so someone can call 911 in case of an overdose, and always carry naloxone. We are grateful to the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife, Brooklyn Allied Bars & Restaurants, and House of Yes for their enthusiastic support of this initiative.”
“Safety is always of the utmost importance when New Yorkers are enjoying a night out. This awareness campaign recognizes that nightlife spaces can actually provide an opportunity for people to look out for each other,” said Ariel Palitz, Senior Executive Director of the Office of Nightlife. “The Office of Nightlife is proud to stand with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in taking a harm reduction approach to the public health challenges posed by fentanyl, and we are pleased to see such strong commitment and partnership from the nightlife community in Brooklyn and all boroughs in this effort.”
“We are thankful for this opportunity to partner with the Department of Health on this important campaign,” said David Rosen, Co-Founder of Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants (BABAR). “The Department of Health should be commended for their proactive research, campaign development, and outreach efforts. Over the past several years, BABAR has worked on various patron safety initiatives, so we understand and value the role our nightlife community can play in keeping our city safe.”
“House of Yes is excited to partner with the Department of Health on this vitally important initiative,” said Jacqui Rabkin, Marketing & Cultural Director at House of Yes. “At House of Yes, we are quickly earning a reputation as a ‘club with causes’ for using our platform to elevate conversations around consent culture, environmental sustainability, queer and feminist issues, and safer spaces. It is therefore a no-brainer for us to support this outreach campaign that will help educate cocaine users about the dangers of fentanyl contamination, and increase naloxone training for nightlife providers. We look forward to working closely with the Department of Health to keep our community safe.”
“The Health Department’s campaign is the embodiment of a person-centered, harm reduction approach to overdose prevention. In recognition of the reality that people may be more inclined to experiment with cocaine at nightclubs, DOH has tailored a judgment-free plan designed to reach this potentially at-risk community. Education is crucial in preventing overdose. Once again, I commend DOHMH, and hope other cities will take note,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
“We know that fentanyl is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin and the likelihood of overdose is even greater when fentanyl is present. That’s why I’m pleased to hear that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be visiting local bars and nightclubs in Williamsburg and Bushwick to raise awareness about fentanyl and ensure that venues are equipped with naloxone — the medication used to reverse an overdose — and first aid supplies in the event of an overdose,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “We need to ensure that people who use are well informed of the risk of potentially having fentanyl in their supply. We know there are ways to prevent people from overdosing and this is a positive step forward in addressing this serious epidemic.”
In New York City, someone dies of a drug overdose every six hours. In 2017, there were 1,487 confirmed overdose deaths (PDF). Opioids were involved in 82% of New York City overdose deaths last year, and the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was the most common drug, involved in 57% of deaths. From January to September 2018, there were 1,055 confirmed overdose deaths (PDF). Drug overdose death remains at epidemic levels in New York City as illicitly manufactured fentanyl continued to be present in the drug supply. Fentanyl has been found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine, as well as in benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers acquired from non-pharmaceutical sources.
Opioid overdose deaths are preventable, and naloxone is available to all New Yorkers who need it:
Treatment with methadone or buprenorphine is highly effective for opioid addiction and can reduce the risk of overdose. Individuals seeking support or treatment for substance use issues for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. Free, confidential support is available at any hour of the day in over 200 languages.
If you witness an overdose, call 911 immediately.
MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Gallahue/Stephanie Buhle: (347) 396-4177