DC announces plan to turn tide on city’s opioid epidemic

WASHINGTON — Like many cities, D.C. has seen a big spike in the number of opioid overdose deaths over the past several years.

In 2014, 83 people died of opioid overdoses in the District, a number that increased 178 percent through 2016, and reached a total of 279 deaths in 2017. A majority of the cases involve the very dangerous opioid fentanyl, which is commonly cut into heroin.

With a goal of turning those numbers around, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new plan of action, which city officials hope will cut the number of opioid overdose deaths in the nation’s capital by 50 percent by the year 2020.

The plan is called LIVE. LONG. DC. and focuses on treatment, awareness, prevention and education, according to city officials. It also places an emphasis on better surveillance of opioid overdoses so that the city can better respond to the situation.

“This plan outlines how District agencies will work with our public and community partners to tackle D.C.’s opioid epidemic,” Bowser said in a statement.

The action plan includes the creation of an Opioid-Related Death Review Board as one of its seven goals and will cost close to $24 million total upon completion in September 2020.

The plan also calls for more access to the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone.

It also calls for the placement of care coordinators — preferably those who have overcome addiction themselves — at the three city hospitals that see the highest number of opioid overdose cases.

Also, the city plans to develop culture of empathy in D.C.’s justice and public health agencies for those addicted to opioids who come in contact with the criminal justice system.

The plan puts an emphasis on developing strategies that reduce the supply of illegal opioids on the streets in District.

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