The city is receiving federal money to continue a program focusing on prescription painkiller abuse, after prescription painkillers were involved in 190 unintentional overdose deaths in the city in 2012.
Death by prescription drug overdose actually decreased in the city from 2011 to 2012 by about 12 percent. Between 2000 and 2011, painkiller overdose deaths had grown by 267 percent. In December 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the Mayor's Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse.
The Task Force program receiving the grant is called RxStat and uses federal, city and state-collected data to better understand patterns of misuse and abuse of prescription opioids like Oxycontin, Vicodin, morphine and methadone. Bloomberg touted the federal grant as the first ever to be awarded to a city for such work.
Bloomberg also announced a pilot program for the NYPD: officers in the 120th precinct in Staten Island will be armed with naloxone, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Deaths by opioid overdose occur at a rate of 7.4 per 100,000 in that precinct compared to 2.4 per 100,000 citywide. Despite having the lowest population of the five boroughs, Staten Island has triple the painkiller overdose rate of any other borough and more people seeking treatment for addiction.
"Equipping officers to administer naloxene to overdose victims may mean the difference between life or death for individuals addicted to prescription painkillers," explained Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The Department of Homeless Services has reportedly also trained more than 350 "peace officers" to administer naloxone, and those officers have successfully stopped 25 out of 29 overdoses over the last three years in single adult shelters.
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