District announces plan to reduce opioid-related deaths by half

The District’s Department of Behavioral Health is spearheading an effort to cut opioid-related deaths in half by September 2020.

The $24 million plan – mostly funded by a federal grant – includes a list of treatment, legal and educational strategies to combat the use of opioids in the District over the next 21 months.

“We will continue to work collaboratively to develop and implement strategies that help those facing opioid use disorder,” Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in the report. “We are devoted to tailoring our response in a manner that is specific to Washington, D.C. based on our history, demographics, and trends in usage so that we can stem this scourge.”

The plan outlines seven main goals for the District, including prioritizing the prevention of substance abuse, promoting access to harm reduction centers and developing laws to curb the supply of illegal opioids.

The institutional changes logged in the plan include the creation of a Fatality Review Board to analyze all opioid-related deaths in the District within six months. Over the same period, the city will develop and launch a data dashboard logging the number of opioid overdoses in the District and the demographics of those affected.

Opioid-related overdoses surged by 178 percent between 2014 and 2016, and in 2017, there were 279 opioid-related deaths, according to the plan.

City officials will also create 24-hour intake and crisis intervention sites throughout the District and make the life-saving drug naloxone available in public spaces with AEDs.

The plan dictates that the city will implement “age-appropriate, evidence-based, culturally competent education” about the risks of drug use in all D.C. public schools. City officials will also devise several social marketing campaigns to promote awareness about opioid use.

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