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New York City Awareness Campaign Goes Directly to Users

May 31, 2019

As part of New York City's comprehensive effort to reduce opioid overdose deaths, city health leaders this week launched a media campaign featuring harm reduction-focused messages around the dangers of fentanyl.

The campaign, which includes messaging urging residents to carry naloxone and not to use drugs alone or to mix drugs, reflects the targeting of active drug users in the HealingNYC initiative.

“Our work is grounded in harm reduction,” Denise Paone, senior director of research and surveillance at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use, tells Addiction Professional. “We know harm reduction works.”

Fentanyl is now the most prominent drug found in overdose victims in the city, with the most recent data from 2017 indicating its presence in 57% of overdose deaths that year. City police lab data have confirmed for health officials that fentanyl is now being found in the cocaine supply and in other drugs as well.

The four-week media campaign, which started May 27, will feature ads at subway stations, bus shelters and city kiosks and on billboards, with online advertising in local businesses. The messages will be targeted to the city neighborhoods with the highest rates of overdose deaths, according to city officials.

Paone adds that it is also important to reach infrequent users of drugs who might not be as aware of the growing presence of fentanyl in drug supplies. Last year the city launched a campaign directly targeting bar patrons who might engage in occasional cocaine use.

The HealingNYC initiative is seeking to save as many as 400 lives in the city by 2022.

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