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Nonfatal Overdose Victims Will be Offered Counseling at City Hospitals

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 13, 2017 4:08pm
 A new program will offer support for nonfatal overdose victims at hospitals citywide, First lady Chirlane McCray announced.
A new program will offer support for nonfatal overdose victims at hospitals citywide, First lady Chirlane McCray announced.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

STATEN ISLAND — Drug users who survive an overdose will soon get a naloxone kit and training on how to use the anti-overdose drugs under a new program the city is launching.

Chirlane McCray, the first lady of New York City, on Wednesday announced the "Relay" program, which will fund trained peer workers to give 24-hour support to overdose patients at emergency rooms across the city.

"Too many families in Staten Island, and across our city, have lost a loved one to an opioid overdose," McCray said in a statement. "If we are going to stem the tide of this epidemic, we must ensure that every New Yorker has access to effective treatment."

READ MORE: Families Torn Apart By Opioid Epidemic

The "Relay" program will launch at three hospitals in May and June — Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton, Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx and New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights — then expand to ten other emergency rooms around the city by 2019.

Under the program, the peer workers will meet with overdose victims and offer risk reduction counseling, OD rescue training and point them toward harm reduction and treatment services.

They will also give them the anti-overdose drug naloxone and training on how to administer it. The Department of Health will also double the amount of the kits available on Staten Island through the city's $38 million-a-year "HealingNYC" initiative to combat addiction rates in the city.

"Surviving an overdose can be the first step to recovering from addiction, which is why we are doubling the number of naloxone kits, from 3,000 to 6,000, and distributing them in Staten Island," said McCray.

At least 107 people died from overdoses across Staten Island in 2016, the highest number on record since the city started keeping records in 2000 and a 35 percent increase from 2015, according to Borough President James Oddo and the Department of Health.

Officials expect the number of deaths to climb as high as 119 when the final data gets released later this year.

Aside from Staten Island, neighborhoods in Queens, and The Bronx — which leads the city in heroin overdose deaths in 2015 — have also been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the "HealingNYC" program to help lower overdoses across the city.

The initiative will increase naloxone access, boost treatment programs and increase the availability of buprenorphine — which helps manage withdrawals to give users a better chance of staying clean — in a hope to reduce overdose deaths by 35 percent over the next five years.