New strategies can empower city leaders to not only coordinate actions across multiple levels of government but stem the tide of addiction and substance abuse that is growing in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Responding to record increases in prescription drug and heroin overdoses across America, the U.S. Communities Alliance made medications that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose available to the state and local government sector in October 2015. Now, a key medication is available to cities at a steep discount. (Photo: yanyong/Getty Images)
Deaths involving opium-based prescription pain-killers and heroin are increasing sharply, according to new data for all of 2014 recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose. More Americans are dying every year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. Communities across America have seen steady rise in the cost and impact of treating opioid related overdose. In the community of Middleton, Ohio, for example, the cost of treating opioid overdoses has exceeded 10 percent of the Middleton Fire Division overall operating budget. In Indiana, the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services saw a 58 percent jump in Narcan® applications in just one year, from 2013 to 2014.
Responses are coming from the federal, state and local levels. Here are three notable ways cities can curb the sharp increase in overdose deaths:
1. Funding from President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal
The proposal includes $1 billion in new funding for states to expand access to medication-assisted treatments for opioid use disorders. Also included is funding for more addiction treatment providers under the National Health Service Corps.
2. Tools and resources from state and local organizations
Organizations representing state and local elected and appointed leaders (such as the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the National Governor’s Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors) are educating their members and providing tools to turn back the tide of heroin addiction through strategies such as medication-assisted treatments.
Most notably, the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance (together with Adapt Phama and Premier, Inc., and acting in partnership with local and state associations) is now making available the life-saving Narcan® Nasal Spray (naloxone hydrochloride), which helps stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, at a steep discount.
3. The creation of local policy solutions
For their part, individual cities are also taking important action steps along the same lines. Naloxone access was cited by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio as a major component of his city’s comprehensive effort to reduce opioid misuse and overdoses.
“By issuing a standing order for Naloxone and building capacity in our health network’s ability to treat people most in need, we will save more lives,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Basset in her comments with the mayor.
A creative response from law enforcement is also an important step.
The City of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is helping change the nature of municipal policing in the face of heroin and opiate addiction. In Gloucester, any person seeking help for addiction from public safety personnel will be connected to an addiction recovery program through a network of local and regional providers. “Gloucester is changing the conversation. Police officers exist to help people,” said Police Chief Leonard Campanello. “Drug addiction is a disease, and drug addicts need help.”
The National League of Cities will engage elected and appointed municipal officials on the many questions and challenges of substance abuse and addiction at the upcoming Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., which takes place March 5-9, 2016. Additional details about that program will be posted in this space in late February. City leaders with stories to share on this issue should add comments to this post or contact the author directly.
About the Author: James Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.