New York City will spend $38 million annually to combat an opioid epidemic that killed more than 1,000 New Yorkers last year, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the HealingNYC initiative would reduce the number of opioid deaths 35 percent during the next five years. The funding will support the distribution of 100,000 kits of naloxone, the drug-overdose-reversal drug, to treatment programs, city shelters and pharmacies. All 23,000 New York patrol officers will be equipped with the kits.
Officials said an estimated 1,300 New Yorkers died of a drug overdose in 2016, the highest total on record. About 1,075 of those overdoses involved an opioid. Almost 90 percent of the fatal opioid overdoses last year involved heroin or fentanyl—a drug 50 times more potent than heroin. Officials said 18 percent of the overdoses involved prescription painkillers. The mayor blamed the rise in opioids on the pharmaceutical industry, which, he said, “encouraged the overuse of addictive pain killers. PhRMA, a trade group representing companies in the pharmaceutical industry, said they are committed to fighting prescription drug abuse. The initiative will support education programs in schools and hospitals to raise awareness of the epidemic and encourage doctors to prescribe medication for shorter durations and lower doses. The city will aim to increase access to methadone and other medication to treat addiction in emergency departments and clinics throughout the city.