Keeping up with his efforts to combat opioid addiction and overdose deaths in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged an annual investment of $22 million. The funds will be directed toward HealingNYC, launched by de Blasio in 2017, for initiating programs like peer intervention and naloxone disbursal. With the new funding, the city will now spend $60 million annually to overcome opioid overdose deaths.
Opioid-related fatalities in New York saw a steep rise from 937 in 2015 to 1,374 in 2016. However, with De Blasio funding $38 million for various opioid relief programs in 2017, there has been a reversal. As per the preliminary estimates of the police department, there were 924 opioid overdose mortalities in 2017. Speaking at the Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island, Blasio said, “We’re beginning to see progress, and I emphasize the word beginning. It’s going to be a long fight.”
The Mayor was joined by Fredi Weinstein, who lost her son to fentanyl overdose in 2016. She reminded everyone that the crisis was not about the numbers alone, but was more about the people lost in the tragic battle between survival and addiction.
Mayor differs from President Trump on death penalty
Significantly, the Mayor’s announcement came the day, March 19, 2018, President Donald Trump unfurled his plan of action to deal with the ongoing crisis. As in the past, the President focused on arming the law enforcement agencies. He also announced death penalty for drug traffickers as a means of curbing the crisis.
But the Mayor envisions a diametrically opposite view — one that aims at connecting the needy to more resources and ensuring easy access to medications and interventions. Disagreeing with the President’s assertion that death penalty can help prevent drug crimes and trafficking, the Mayor said that he did not think it was a sufficient deterrent or was correct on moral grounds.
Fund utilization in prevention and treatment initiatives
Not a single penny of the newly allocated funds will go to law enforcement agencies. Instead, the funds will be majorly utilized for preventing overdose cases and linking the affected people with sufficient treatment. Furthermore, the funds will be capitalized for new hires such as 29 new staffers for the Health and Engagement Assessment Team and the Rapid Assessment Response Team. Both the teams attend to overdose calls and closely work with the city’s police department and department of health.
New beginning but miles to go
The mayor has taken an exemplary step by reaching out to those struggling with an addiction. He hopes to save at least 400 lives within four years through his consistent efforts. Many a times, the prevailing stigma around mental illnesses and addiction makes most individuals reluctant to ask for support. They fear that they will be thrust into jails and detention centers, and be branded as criminals once they come out. Many shrug at the idea of losing their jobs and facing their family once they reveal their problems. But it is essential for them and their loved ones to understand that silence is not the key to overcoming a problem of this scale. If the intent and approach are correct, lives can certainly be made better.
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