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Mayor Bowser Releases District’s Plan to End Opioid Epidemic

Monday, December 24, 2018

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Department of Behavioral Health announced the release of LIVE. LONG. DC., the District’s strategic plan to reduce opioid use and misuse and to reduce opioid-related deaths by 50 percent by 2020.

“This plan outlines how District agencies will work with our public and community partners to tackle DC’s opioid epidemic,” said Mayor Bowser. “We know that the opioid epidemic in our city looks different than how the epidemic is talked about nationwide. This plan was created in response to the specific needs of our community and focuses our resources on increasing awareness and prevention, enhancing treatment offerings, and strengthening recovery supports.”

Created by a public-private working group of more than 40 stakeholders, LIVE. LONG. DC. outlines strategies to address the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment, and recovery supports. Even as the plan was under development, ideas sparked from the working group were put into practice right away and so several of the strategic approaches are already well underway.

The plan’s seven goals include:

  • Goal 1: Reduce legislative and regulatory barriers to create a comprehensive surveillance and response that supports sustainable solutions to emerging trends in substance use disorder, opioid-related overdoses, and opioid-related fatalities.
  • Goal 2: Educate District residents and key stakeholders on the risks of opioid use disorders and effective prevention and treatment options.
  • Goal 3: Engage health professionals and organizations in the prevention and early intervention of substance use disorder among District residents.
  • Goal 4: Support the awareness and availability of, and access to, harm reduction services in Washington, DC.
  • Goal 5: Ensure equitable and timely access to high-quality substance use disorder treatment and recovery support services.
  • Goal 6: Develop and implement a shared vision between Washington, DC’s justice and public health agencies to address the needs of individuals who come in contact with the criminal justice system to develop a culture of empathy for residents and their families.
  • Goal 7: Develop effective law enforcement strategies that reduce the supply of illegal opioids in Washington, DC.

“By employing evidence-based strategies and promising practices, LIVE. LONG. DC. will serve as the roadmap for us to enhance the work that we all do to create prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies that reduce opioid use disorder in the District,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, Interim Director of the DC Department of Behavioral Health. “We have been consistent in making progress and this brings us closer to meeting our goal.”

Much of the plan’s work will be supported by $21 million through the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant, disbursed over a one-year period, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Washington, DC will receive an additional $21 million, for a total of $42 million over two years, from the grant during the next federal fiscal year. The SOR grant will help to:

  • increase access to medication-assisted treatment, which combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat opioid use disorders;
  • reduce unmet treatment needs; and
  • lower opioid overdose related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment, and recovery activities, including for heroin, illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, and prescription opioids.

Additional federal grants will be used to fund the plan. The Prescription Drug Overdose: Data-Driven Prevention Initiative (DDPI), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, supports the District’s ability to improve community prevention programs and data collection and analysis around opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose. The CDC funded Public Health Crisis NOFO grant provides $3.7 million to build Washington, DC’s capacity to respond to unusual surges of opioid overdoses and augment existing surveillance and prevention efforts.

The plan will complement the DC Government’s existing interagency work to reduce opioid use disorder that includes improving data and surveillance, expanding access to life-saving harm reduction best practices, and educating residents on risks and treatment options through innovative public campaigns.

To read LIVE. LONG. DC. and learn more about the budget investments and the timeline overview in the plan, visit dbh.dc.gov.