Mayor Tishaura O. Jones declares International Overdose Awareness Day in the City of St. Louis

Today, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones will sign a proclamation declaring August 31, 2022 as International Overdose Awareness Day in the City of St. Louis. The city joins the White House, St. Louis County and other municipalities nationwide to raise awareness of the dangers of opioid abuse and overdose.

“Opioid abuse and overdoses have a heartbreaking impact on families and communities in St. Louis,” said Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “Drug addiction is a root cause of crime, and addressing it will make our neighborhoods safer in the long run. From funding community violence intervention programs to the vital work of the City of St. Louis Department of Health, my administration is working to educate residents about opioid addiction while taking action to prevent them from settling in our communities. County Executive Page and I have discussed how we can work together on this issue, and I stand ready to work with all of our regional partners to protect our residents.

The general trend of drug overdose deaths and non-deaths in the city of St. Louis has increased over the past five years. According to data from the medical examiner’s office, drug overdose deaths have increased by 30% in the city, from 317 in 2017 to 448 in 2021; fentanyl was the illicit drug responsible for most deaths, followed by cocaine. The City of St. Louis Department of Health (DOH) is positioning itself to better address the opioid crisis. This year, the Department will launch a new Behavioral Health Office and one of its two focus areas will be substance use disorders in the city, including the opioid crisis.

“The complex public health problem of substance use disorders requires collaborative response efforts,” says Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, Chief Health Officer for the City of St. Louis. “The department has already enlisted several organizations to help, including Behavioral Health Response (BHR), Emergency Medical Services Office, City of St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office, University of Washington, St. Louis Mental Health Board and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”.

The DOH has hired six new employees through a partnership with the CDC following Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s visit to St. Louis last winter. These new employees will be with the Department for one year working on the strategic planning and implementation of an initiative to address the opioid crisis in St. Louis using a data-driven approach.

The St. Louis Fire Department urges people in an emergency overdose situation to call 911 for EMS. A fire apparatus and ambulance are deployed to respond to suspected overdose calls instead of police due to their training in the use of naloxone, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose .

“All fire apparatus are equipped with naloxone and have a response time of approximately four minutes,” St. Louis Fire Department Chief Dennis M. Jenkerson said. If you suspect an overdose, don’t delay, call us immediately and help save lives.

The use of opioids must be considered from a public health perspective, and that the treatment works and that a cure is possible. Find out where to get free treatment, naloxone, and fentanyl strips in the St. Louis area at nomodeaths.org. Through the American Rescue Plan Act, the city has allocated funds to The T, a community organization that addresses the root causes of crime like opioid addiction and abuse through education and distribution of narcan.

“Overdose is an often fatal, yet preventable complication of drug use,” said Dr. LJ Punch, Founder of The T. “With the right knowledge and resources, we can collectively reduce the harms of opioids and prevent overdose-related deaths. We’re striving for even more #BrakeThePain which drives global opioid consumption.

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