D.C. legislators to investigate the failures of the city in the maturation of opioid epidemics


D.C. Lawmakers will hold a public hearing to investigate deficiencies in the city's response to rising heroin deaths in the neighborhoods of African American and to assess future strategies for fighting the opioid epidemic. The hearing on 28 January will be held jointly by the Council's judicial and health committees. It comes after The Washington Post reported last month that the public health authorities of the district have repeatedly stalled in facing one of the most severe increases in fatal opioid overdoses in recent years. DC Council members Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) – president of the health and judicial committees respectively – said the hearing would provide legislators with the opportunity to investigate the reasons for the failures by the Post, but also to request information on how the board of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) intends to reduce drug killings more effectively. "The city is behind the curve in its response, and it's behind the curve with a few years," Allen said. "A big part of this is me, where is the urgency? What is a stronger word than urgent – where is the directness to this? That's a big part of what we want to focus on during the hearing." Gray said he was especially worried about whether the city, in the light of past passivity, was willing to spend $ 21 million that it expects to receive from the federal government this year to tackle the opioid epidemic. "It is a disgrace, and it is disgraceful that we have not done more," Gray said. "We have to increase our game." [D.C. is ground zero for an explosion in African American opioid deaths] A Bowser spokeswoman did not respond immediately to a request for comment. At the end of last month, the mayor published a 22-page plan after the publication of the series, calling for a reduction in the mortality rate for opioids by half in 2020. Many of the main initiatives described in the document , however reflect previous plans drawn up by DC officials Some are things that the city already does or should do. "Too many of our neighbors in Washington, D.C. are losing their lives, or relatives and friends, to drug addiction," Bowser said in a cover letter to the plan. "Our approach to interagency, public health has led to progress in saving lives and reducing fatal overdoses, but we still have a lot of work to do." Between 2014 and 2017, the rate of fatal drug overdose increased by 209.9 percent – an increase that was higher than that in each state and the ninth highest in all US provinces, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. (The agency does not follow the deaths per city.) In 2017, the city saw 279 deadly opioid overdoses, according to the D.C. chief medical examiner – a figure higher than the number of murders in that year. The deaths were caused by heroin cut with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl and were concentrated in older, African American users in Southeastern and Northeast Washington. African American users die from drug overdoses with more than seven times the speed of the white residents of the district, according to the most recent CDC data. Despite the scale of death – which represented the worst public health crisis in the city since the climax of the AIDS epidemic – DC officials have not applied life-saving strategies widely accepted by other cities and states and have millions of federal donations. snapped, according to The Post. An attempt to publicly distribute naloxone – an overdose of antidote that can prevent deaths – was paralyzed by the D.C. Department of Health by the refusals of city officials to release sufficient quantities of the medication, causing frontline treatment workers to face shortages. In 2017 Baltimore distributed more than three times as much naloxone per capita as District and Philadelphia. [D.C. officials ignored life-saving strategies as overdose deaths soared] Overdose prevention and treatment programs that the District would have had to perform in the past two years using $ 4 million in federal stock money were also plagued by problems. The city failed to spend a third of its federal dollars during the first year of the fair, requiring a special request to federal officials to transfer the money. The medical care provider who received a lot of subsidy from the district said that no patient was referred for addiction treatment via city programs. Initiatives city officials said that the federal government they would launch – including a relief program for patients with an overdose in the public hospital of the district – has never come true. Bowser removed Tanya Royster, director of the Department of Behavioral Health, at the end of November, shortly before The Post published his stories. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the Ministry of Health, now controls both agencies on an interim basis. Allen and Gray said they expected her to call her to testify. A Nesbitt spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. The hearing is because the lawmakers of the D.C. also insist on other fronts to intensify the fight against opioid deaths. This week, eight of the 13 members of the Council introduced a bill that required policemen to wear naloxone, as in thousands of other departments across the country. Bowser officials and the police are opposed to such a policy, referring to the costs and training requirements and arguing that it is unnecessary because the fire service and emergency medical services have all the antidote.