Washington, DC- Today, Councilmember Henderson introduced the Sense of the Council on the Opioid and Fentanyl Epidemic Resolution of 2023. This resolution urges the Mayor to declare the opioid and fentanyl crisis in the District a public health emergency, recognizing the gravity of the situation and committing sufficient resources to safeguarding the well-being of District residents.
The opioid and fentanyl crisis has inflicted profound harm across our nation and is widely recognized as a public health emergency by agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Locally, the crisis has adversely impacted District residents. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the District currently ranks first in all drug overdoses and second in opioid overdose deaths per capita. Between 2018 and 2022, opioid-related fatal overdoses in DC have more than doubled, from 213 to 461 lives lost. Alarmingly, 96% of opioid-related fatal overdoses in 2022 were linked to fentanyl or its analogs. The District's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and the Opioid Fatality Review Board conducted a study based on 228 cases of individuals who succumbed to opioid overdoses in 2019. Their findings reveal that 75% of the deceased were male, 84% were Black, and the majority fell within the 50-69 age group. Most were at home at the time of their fatal overdose, with more than half residing in Wards 5 (22%) and 8 (31%).
In the District, when a public health emergency is declared, it initiates a comprehensive response plan. This includes the mobilization of vital resources, such as funds, medical supplies, personnel, and equipment, possibly with the support of federal agencies. The declaration also fosters improved coordination among government agencies, healthcare providers, emergency responders, and community organizations. “We have to do something different to reverse this crisis in the District. Last year, the District had over 3,600 fatal and non-fatal overdoses. Declaring this the public health emergency that it is empowers the District to implement necessary policy changes and heightens public awareness about the severity of the situation,” remarked Councilmember Henderson. “We need robust planning and implementation of programs and strategies to end this crisis that is claiming the lives of our neighbors.”
The Sense of the Council on the Opioid and Fentanyl Epidemic Resolution of 2023 was unanimously co-introduced by the full Council.