America is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in history with more than 70,000 deaths attributed to overdose in 2017, a ten percent increase from 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The growing opioid epidemic kills more people than gun violence or car accidents at a pace faster than the H.I.V epidemic at its peak in the 1980s.
Suicide rates also rose, by 3.7 percent. Together, these two causes of untimely death lowered U.S. life expectancy for the second year in a row, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
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The dramatic rise in opioid-related deaths is devastating communities throughout the US, regardless of socio-economic-status, and specifically across all five boroughs of New York City.
De Blasio announces $8 Million plan
For New Yorkers, the epidemic’s devastation is next door.
“In the Bronx, you have so many people in housing who overdose. To actually sit there and witness this whole thing is devastating," Terrell Jones, a longtime resident of the Bronx, told New York Times.
“The bodies turn up in public restrooms, in parks, and under bridges, skin tone ashen or shades of blue and the deceased can go undiscovered for hours, or days if they were alone when they injected heroin and overdosed,” she added.
In a try to battle the epidemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city will allocate $8 million in response to the still-rising death rate from opioid overdoses in the Bronx.
The funding will support an advertising campaign on the dangers of the powerful opioid fentanyl, distribution of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and community groups that connect people to treatment.
"We're increasing resources in the Bronx to make sure one of the hardest-hit boroughs has the resources it needs to turn the tide on this devastating epidemic," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
The crisis in the Bronx stems from a surge of opioids in a place where some residents have long struggled with addiction. Heroin and fentanyl have become much cheaper in recent years as the supply in the United States has grown, according to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York.
“The battle against opioids has gotten harder over recent years, especially because of fentanyl,” de Blasio said.
The fentanyl-laced heroin is 50 times more powerful than heroin itself and can be present in cocaine and crack cocaine.
“The Bronx has a history of dealing with some of the toughest challenges in this city but not getting the support it deserved. And that is part of why we still have a lot of work to do here,” de Blasio said
“We realized that the past approach wasn’t going to work and we needed something much more aggressive. We had to bring the treatment to people that needed it. “