With overdose deaths from heroin and other opioids soaring, Bronx officials are rolling out new strategies to combat the drug crisis. NY1 Borough Reporter Erin Clarke has the story.
Just about every day last year, someone in the Bronx died from a drug overdose.
"The Bronx was the borough with the highest number of overdose deaths in 2016: 308 residents," said Hillary Kunins, the assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use.
The numbers account for about 25 percent of the city's overdose deaths that year.
85 percent of the Bronx overdoses involved opioids: Heroin, prescription painkillers like OxyCodone, and the increasingly-popular and extremely potent deadly synthetic drug, Fentanyl.
"In 2016 — which has had the largest number of overdose deaths on record in New York City — about 44 percent, nearly half of overdose deaths, involved Fetanyl," Kunins said.
Drug abuse has been a problem for decades in struggling communities like the South Bronx.
But what's changed is the growing drug use in middle-class neighborhoods, such as City Island, where in June federal officials arrested a suspected drug dealer linked to two overdose deaths.
"We've had arrests in the Westchester Square community, in Country Club, in City Island," said John Doyle, a 45th Precinct Community Council board member, and a city council candidate. "And for years and decades, even, the 45th Precinct has been known as a very low crime precinct."
Like in the Bronx, opioid abuse across the country is happening in communities regardless of race or economic status.
In the Bronx, hospitals are ramping up short- and long-term services and education campaigns.
"We'll be able to really emphasize and use the best techniques with our patients to really help battle the opioid epidemic," said Dr. Jantra Coll, the clinical director of Jacobi Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Center.
Health agencies are also partnering with politicians to educate their constituents.
Last month, State Sen. Jeff Klein held a Naloxone training session. The drug, also known as Narcan, can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
"I want to make sure more and more people understand what it's about," Klein said. "That they get the training to help a loved one, to help a stranger in need."
Part of a tailored local response that includes urging doctors to limit opioid prescriptions, a 24-hour help hotline (1-888-NYC-WELL), and an app that New Yorkers can use to identify and respond to an overdose.