The Surprising New Tactic These Cities Are Using to Attempt to Reduce Drug Overdoses
America has been facing an opioid epidemic for the past few years, and while President Trump officially declared the crisis a national emergency last October, critics have noted that few funds have been allocated to aid the issue.
A few large cities have taken matters into their own hands and proposed a way to potentially reduce the number of opioid and illegal drug overdoses in the U.S (page 3). Read on to learn which cities are affected, their plan, and the critical reaction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that each day, more than 90 Americans die from overdosing on opioid drugs. These drugs include prescription pain relievers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, heroin, and synthetic opioids.
Physicians partially attribute the rise in opioid use to the coinciding “prevalence of chronic pain” and the rising healthcare costs to treat this pain. 2016 was the most lethal year to date in terms of opioid deaths, with overdoses notably killing more people than breast cancer.
Next: Trump’s response to the epidemic
The federal response to the opioid epidemic
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) director alongside witnesses from the Department of Health and Human Services presented a five-point strategy to combat opioid overdose called the “Opioid Strategy.” Among the five points were initiatives intended to improve addicts’ access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services as well as work toward pain management advancements that will “enable access to high-quality, evidence-based pain care.”
A few months ago, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “Health Emergency” but his directive didn’t request additional funds to fight the issue. While he renewed the emergency declaration last week, the senior VP at the National Council for Behavioral Health called his advances on the issue, “A lot of talk, little action.”
Next: The controversial measure a few large cities are proposing.
The truth about ‘safe injection sites’
Enter safe injection sites, also referred to as “supervised injection sites” or “safe consumption sites,” are designed to provide a clean facility and sterile injection equipment for people who inject illegal drugs like heroin. By providing these materials, the sites aim to reduce the spread of HIV and Hep C, which are transferred via infected needles, prevent overdoses, and keep streets clear of used needles.
The facilities will be staffed with trained professionals who have the ability to administer drugs necessary to reverse an overdose, provide care to needle-associated wounds, help users get treatment, and test for HIV.
Next: The first facility of its kind.
It started in Vancouver
Vancouver opened the Powell Street Getaway facility in July 2017. It operates under a Health Canada and is exempt from prosecution under federal drug laws. Vancouver has another facility called Insite. Both were created to provide a location “beneficial for the community and for residents” by reducing how many injections occur on the street.
The initiative to create these sites occurred last year when British Columbia’s overdose death toll surpassed its 2016 statistics in nine months alone. Judge Darcy, the province’s minister of addictions, told HuffPost that the fundamental issue is the “need to start treating addiction like a health issue,” saying, “We need to be pouring on the supports so that we have a pathway to hope for people and so they don’t end up in the criminal justice system.”
Next: This U.S. city was the first to propose a site.
Seattle was the first continental U.S. city to propose a site
In 2017, Mayor Ed Muray and County Executive Dow Constantine announced that Seattle and King County planned to create two safe injection sights to combat the growing heroin and opioid overdoses in the region. In 2015, Washington state declared 718 people died from an opioid drug overdose — more than those who did from a car accident.
“The crisis is growing beyond anything we have seen before,” Murray said. “We can do something about that.” Seattle reportedly set aside $1.3 million to create these safe injection sites, however, Murray acknowledged he believed getting funding would be tough under President Trump.
Next: The city that’s sparking headlines and taking action.
Now, Philadelphia is taking the initiative to create one
Philadelphia has the highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses compared to the rest of the large U.S. cities. In 2017, the death rate climbed by one-third when over 1,200 people died from an addiction.
“We cannot just watch as our children, our parents, our brothers, and our sisters die of drug overdose,” Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley said, “We have to use every proven tool we can to save their lives until they recover from the grip of addiction.” A scientific review of these safe injection sites estimated that just one site had the potential to prevent 76 fatal overdoses a year.
Next: What is your response to the sites?
Here’s how the public is reacting
While government officials and health professionals from the states we’ve addressed have referred to these centers as “life-saving,” they’ve also made it clear that they don’t support illicit opioid drug use. “No one here condones or supports illegal drug use in any way,” Farley said. “We want people saddled with drug addiction to get help.”
However, that doesn’t quell the controversial nature of the sites themselves. Critics of safe injection sites have argued they contradict laws intact to prevent the use of drugs like heroin and illegal opiates, as well as have the potential to “undermine prevention and treatment.”
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