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K2 Epidemic Sparks $190,000-a-Year Drug Treatment Program in East Harlem

By Dartunorro Clark | December 22, 2016 11:04am
"Spice," a drug also known as K2 or synthetic marijuana, is a growing problem in the city, officials said.
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EAST HARLEM — A drug-treatment program born out of East Harlem's synthetic marijuana epidemic will be funded with $190,000 per year, officials announced.

State leaders joined local organizations Wednesday to announce that the local programs dedicated to treatment and recovery will be paid for over the next five years.

Arlene González-Sánchez, the commissioner for the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, said two local organizations would provide the services: Odyssey House, based at 219 E. 121st St., and Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System.

“We are here to ensure folks in our system get treatment and get it in a respectful way,” the commissioner said.

 Arlene González-Sánchez, the commissioner for the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, talks about the new program to tackle drug abuse in the neighborhood at Odyssey House.
Arlene González-Sánchez, the commissioner for the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, talks about the new program to tackle drug abuse in the neighborhood at Odyssey House.
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DNAinfo/Dartunorro Clark

Dedicated workers, known as “peer engagement specialists,” will perform outreach and identify the best ways to engage with those in the neighborhood for drug treatment and recovery. They'll focus particularly on synthetic marijuana known as K2, heroin and opioids, officials said.

The commissioner said the initiative came about amid the growth of K2 use in East Harlem, a problem particularly seen along the 125th Street corridor.

The peer engagement specialists will also work with local emergency departments and hospitals, focusing on at-risk individuals between 96th and 138th streets from Fifth Avenue to the river, officials said.

Peter Provet, the president of Odyssey House, said “a bang came through with this synthetic marijuana issue” in East Harlem and other places in the city.

Residents and business owners have called the troubled corridor “K2 Street.”

Officials said the program will also have tailored components for people from different cultures who may speak different languages, particularly the large Latino community in the neighborhood.

“The more people who know about the services," Provet said, "the more lives we will save."