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City To 'Flood the Streets' With Anti-Overdose Drug to Battle Opioid Crisis

By Katie Honan | March 13, 2017 12:34pm | Updated on March 13, 2017 3:14pm
 A Bed-Stuy resident learns how to administer naloxone at a training session in the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza Wednesday afternoon.
A Bed-Stuy resident learns how to administer naloxone at a training session in the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza Wednesday afternoon.
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DNAinfo/Nicole Levy

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio will spend nearly $40 million each year in a comprehensive attack on opioid and other drug addictions, which killed approximately 1,300 people in 2016 —the most ever in the city’s history.

The program, HealingNYC, will “flood the streets” with the overdose reversal drug naloxone, boost treatment programs and invest further in the city’s mental health programs, officials said.

“The first obligation of government is to protect the health and safety of our people,”  de Blasio said in a report on the program, which was announced Monday at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.

The problem has been accelerated by a rise in cheap heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is six times more potent than heroin, “devastating lives in every kind of family in every borough,” the mayor said.

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In 2016, an estimated 1,300 people died of a drug overdose, with 80 percent of those deaths involving an opioid, officials said. 

Now the city will spend $38 million each year in an effort to reduce overdose deaths by 35 percent over the next five years, officials said.

“We’ve lost 1,075 New Yorkers to an opioid overdose last year, which was much more than the year before," de Blasio said at the program's announcement. In 2015, 753 people died of an opioid overdose, he said.

"Each one of these was an individual, a person, a family was affected, and a huge number of people to lose. When you think about the fact that if we could only have reached them, we could have saved those lives."

The Department of Health will distribute more than 100,000 naloxone kits across the city, focusing on opioid treatment, detox and syringe exchange programs.

Naloxone is a nasal spray that can stop an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids on users.

DOH officials say they’ve received reports of more than 1,200 overdose reversals — saving lives nine times in the city’s shelter system, for example. And NYPD officers who used naloxone in 115 cases reversed overdoses 111 times, data shows.

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Medication-assisted treatment, including methadone and buprenorphine access, will also be increased to help an additional 20,000 residents by 2022, officials said. These programs can help curb opioid cravings and allow people to work on their recovery while keeping their jobs and lives intact, the report said.

HealingNYC will also focus on early intervention and education, combining with ThriveNYC’s initiatives to increase mental health clinics in schools around the city.

The “Save a Life, Carry Naloxone” awareness program will also expand — working to both let people know where they can receive help and try to remove the “deep stigma” around addiction.