Expand Treatment, Better Educate: Mayor Jim Kenney Shares Opioid Task Force Recommendations for Battling Addiction

Drug overdoses claimed 3 times as many lives as homicides in Philadelphia last year

As Philadelphia continues to confront a deadly opioid epidemic, the city is taking steps to battle addiction.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf were joined by health officials Friday morning to announce recommendations from the Mayor's Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia.

“The opioid epidemic has been taking lives, destroying families and undermining the quality of life of Philadelphians across the city,” Kenney said. “This report and its recommendations offer a road map as to how, together, we can take action and adequately address this problem to reduce use and the devastating loss of life this epidemic is causing.”

The task force laid out 18 recommendations "to increase prevention and education efforts while enhancing treatment opportunities for those impacted by the opioid crisis."

"We need more treatment options," Wolf said Friday.

"Having treatment available is only one part of the challenge," Dr. Arthur Evans, co-chair of the opioid task force, said. "The bigger challenge often is getting people to go to treatment. Ninety percent of the people in this city who have an addiction are not in treatment and 80 percent of them don't believe they need to be in treatment." [[423134724, C]]

Kenney’s opioid task force launched earlier this year.

Advocates have long prodded the city to declare the drug epidemic a public health crisis and form such a task force to coordinate efforts to address it.

The city had around 900 overdoses last year – three times the city’s homicide rate.

Worse, the grim statistic, continues to rise every year, as NBC10 found in its recent special report, Generation Addicted. The more than year-long project followed those in the throes of addiction, family and community members affected by it and health officials and law enforcement trying to fight it.

NBC10 reporters Vince Lattanzio, Morgan Zalot and Denise Nakano explore the tragic world of heroin and opioid addiction in the Philadelphia area and beyond. This special long-form presentation is just one of a series of stories as part of our investigation. Dive into our in-depth coverage and many more stories here.

The mayoral task force with its 23 core members and about 100 subcommittee members including health experts, local and federal law enforcement, state administrators and advocates charged was charged recommending an attack plan for Philadelphia's ever-growing heroin and opioid epidemic. It held its first meeting in January and originally hoped to get recommendations to Kenney in 90 days. The task force plan was revealed Friday.

“We can end this crisis, but it will take the coordinated efforts of very many people and organizations,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “The recommendations of the Task Force will guide all of us in this. They are comprehensive and focus on consumer and provider education, expanded treatment efforts and overdose.”

Here is the list of task force recommendations:

  1. Conduct a consumer-directed media campaign about opioid risks.
  2. Conduct a public education campaign about naloxone.
  3. Destigmatize opioid use disorder and its treatment.
  4. Improve health care professional education.
  5. Establish insurance policies that support safer opioid prescribing and appropriate treatment.
  6. Increase the provision of medication-assisted treatment.
  7. Expand treatment access and capacity.
  8. Embed withdrawal management into all levels of care, with an emphasis on recovery initiation.
  9. Implement “warm handoffs” to treatment after overdose.
  10. Provide safe housing, recovery, and vocational supports.
  11. Incentivize providers to enhance the quality of substance use disorder screening,
  12. Expand naloxone availability.
  13. Further explore comprehensive user engagement sites.
  14. Establish a coordinated rapid response to “outbreaks.”
  15. Address homelessness among opioid users.
  16. Expand the court’s capacity for diversion to treatment
  17. Expand enforcement capacity in key areas.
  18. Provide substance use disorder assessment and treatment in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons.
Click here to view the Task Force's "comprehensive and coordinated plan to reduce opioid abuse, dependence and overdose in Philadelphia."
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