D.C. mayor’s previously announced plan of reducing opioid overdose deaths by half in the District by 2020 is still in progress, according to a report by the Washington Post on March 3.
Among the initiatives announced in December by the mayor for bringing down drug overdose deaths included new emergency room treatment programs and increased availability of drugs to counter overdose cases. Attributing to city officials and service providers, the Washington Post reported that those initiatives are still in the planning stages.
About 280 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017 as the District failed to quickly implement treatment and prevention programs, as per the report.
Also, D.C. Department of Behavioral Health, which is the lead agency countering the opioid epidemic, remains without a permanent director since last November, after its previous director was removed.
“The city has been acting with a sense of urgency for quite some time,” said LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director of the Department of Health, who is additionally holding the post of interim director of the Department of Behavioral Health.
However, critics point out that the city has been slow to respond to the growing number of heroin and fentanyl deaths.
“Every month that goes by . . . you still have overdoses and folks dying,” said Edwin Chapman, an addiction medicine doctor who practices in Northeast Washington, in an interview with the Washington Post. He added that the city’s planned initiatives shouldn’t be difficult to implement as similar policies are working elsewhere.
D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), the chairman of the council’s health committee, said that there hasn’t been much progress in terms of battling the surging opioid overdoses in the city. “I don’t think anybody can truthfully tell you that a lot has occurred,” said Gray.
From 2014 to 2017, D.C.’s rate of fatal drug overdoses increased by 209.9 percent, which is the ninth highest among all counties in America. There were 279 deadly opioid overdoses in D.C. in 2017. Last year, the epidemic witnessed a moderate decline, with 192 deaths by the end of November, as per the chief medical examiner’s office.