We welcome the president’s announcement declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The growing opioid epidemic is devastating individuals and families across our country, and requires urgent and sweeping attention.
However, the president’s action needs to go further, and must include the allocation of new resources to fight the opioid epidemic. That means more funding for overdose prevention education, syringe exchange, and distribution of Narcan, an overdose reversal drug.
Existing federal programs, like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, currently offer services for people facing substance use and mental health challenges.
Diverting existing budgetary allotments that are designated to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS and other illnesses will harm the public health, rather than respond with needed resources to combat the escalating opioid epidemic.
Currently, 175 Americans reportedly die each day from opioid use, and New York City has been at the epicenter of this epidemic, with 1,374 confirmed overdose deaths in 2016, an alarming 46 percent increase over the previous year.
We cannot – and do not – view this in a silo, as substance use is closely tied to greater rates of HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.
At The Alliance for Positive Change, we promote a “harm reduction” philosophy of care that meets people where they are, providing support and tools to address social barriers to health—poverty, mental illness, substance use, homelessness, unemployment—that continue unabated for so many communities.
It is through harm reduction and expanded syringe access programs that we have successfully reduced new HIV infections among active substance users.
While our president has branded the epidemic “a public health emergency,” in order for our country to become, as Mr. Trump said, “the generation that ends this crisis,” we need the president and secretary of Health to earmark additional funding.
Sharen I. Duke
Executive Director & CEO
The Alliance for Positive Change