Too often, residents in D.C. who need critical services go without, not because they are denied or due to a lack of resources that the government and private sectors offer. It’s too often due to a lack of information or concerted efforts by providers to do outreach to ensure widespread public awareness about what is specifically available to address those needs. 

This is not a blame game. We know that funding rarely includes dollars for outreach, leaving providers with a handout begging media organizations to promote their causes for free. We also know that media organizations strive to support causes and engage in community awareness efforts. As a part of their corporate responsibility, they honor their obligation to keep the public informed and to serve as a catalyst for good and positive outcomes. 

The Washington Informer is no exception. Years ago, we partnered with Rosalind Parker, director of the Ward 5 Drug Coalition, to promote the local, small organization’s efforts to address drug abuse and prevention, primarily in Ward 5. Since then, opioid use and overdoses have increased in D.C., and Parker is emerging from the impact of COVID on her organization’s ability to serve and to request support for initiatives planned around International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day on August 31. 

Parker reminds us that this year, D.C. is averaging about 30 fatal overdoses a month, and the overdoses are increasing in younger people. Street purchases and an online black market are making available fake pills laced with Fentanyl “that is killing our people,” Parker wrote. Moreover, she added, “we have seen and continue to see over 400 fatal [opioid] overdoses a year . . . twice as many as homicides in DC.” 

This is a problem and one that Dr. Edwin E. Chapman, a specialist in internal and addiction medicine, testified in March before the House Ways and Means Committee on “Substance Use, Suicide Risk and the American Health System.” Dr. Chapman is championing the impact of telemedicine on the opioid crisis, one that he sees all too closely. In his testimony, he included a photo captioned, “It is far easier to buy fentanyl outside of my office just 2 miles from the U.S. Capitol than to get a legitimate buprenorphine prescription.” 

Buprenorphine is a replacement drug used to treat heroin and methadone addiction. It should also be noted that the use of Narcan Nasal Spray is also reducing deaths related to opioid overdoses. Still, Parker, Chapman, and others agree that more residents need access and training on how to use it. 

Drug abuse and addiction are widespread problems with practical solutions. It’s getting those who need help to those who can give it. If it takes a special day to amplify both, let’s all get on board to make a difference.

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