Philadelphia residents refuse to use drug war-era policies to cure opioid crisis, poll finds

According to a Lenfest Institute for Journalism/SSRS poll, more than half of Philadelphia citizens believe that addressing the opioid crisis should be the next mayor’s top priority, and city leaders are more likely to target drug users I think we should focus on providing mental health and addiction treatment instead of making arrests. We surveyed over 1,200 people.

Black and Latino poll respondents were more likely than white respondents to say that addressing the urban opioid epidemic should be a top priority.

In Philadelphia, fatal overdose rates among black and Latino residents are rising year by year, while those among white residents are declining. Last year saw a particularly sharp rise in overdose deaths among blacks in Philadelphia, prompting the city to scramble to provide education and resources to areas with large black populations, such as zip code 19140 in northern Philadelphia. rice field. In this region, overdose deaths increased by 66% in his three years.

Sam Rivera, 61, a veteran and Red Cross volunteer from northeastern Philadelphia, describes the drug use in the open in Kensington, a Latino-majority neighborhood at the epicenter of the city’s overdose crisis. Rivera, a former Port Richmond resident of Latino descent, said everyone should be concerned about the opioid crisis, regardless of race or geography.

“People are dying,” said Anita Plummer, 59, who is black and who listed opioid use as a top priority in polls. Mount Airy, who worked for the city’s health department before retiring resident Plummer has been recovering from alcoholism and crack for seven years.

She has known several people who have overdosed in recent years and worries about the rise of press pills, counterfeit pharmaceutical pain relievers containing illegal fentanyl. “It’s a one-time use that’s killing some people by taking fentanyl and thinking it’s something else,” she said.

When asked which interventions are best for combating opioid addiction, 68% of survey respondents said their city should prioritize mental health treatment, and 62% said their city should prioritize more addiction treatment and recovery. I replied that I should provide the program.

Alexis Ross, an associate professor of community health and medicine at Drexel University, said that as the overdose crisis demographic shifts, ensuring equal access to addiction treatment for black residents is particularly important. A national survey showed that black patients were less likely than white patients to be offered medications for opioid use disorder and were more effective than drug abstinence in producing lasting recovery. I’m here.

Public health experts in the city, including Mr. Ross, said resident polls show Philadelphia citizens reject drug-war-era policies and view addicts as criminals. That’s what I mean. While more than half of poll respondents said the city should prioritize arresting drug dealers and educating people about drug use, city leaders Only 22% said they should focus.

“It’s clear that there is a growing realization that using the classic tools of the war on drugs is not the right approach,” said Megan Reed, a research assistant professor of public health at Thomas Jefferson University. A public health approach is needed and mayors need to recognize that this is a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue.”

Germantown’s Zenobia Battle, 75, also named opioid use as a priority for the incoming mayor. She said she was horrified when she encountered people openly using drugs on public transport and was nervous about panhandling and robberies related to drug use. She said that doing is not the answer.

“They need help, they need professional help. They need another chance. And they need to be off the street,” Battle said. Giving them the chance to think about a different way of life might help them stay off drugs longer.”

Nearly 67 percent of Philadelphia citizens surveyed agreed, saying increasing support for people with addiction and serious mental health problems should be a top housing policy priority for mayoral candidates. increase. Also, black Philadelphians were more likely to believe it than white Philadelphians.

“It’s hard to prioritize health when basic needs aren’t being met,” says Roth. “Providing people the opportunity to stabilize through adequate housing gives them the opportunity to prioritize things, not just survival.”

Housing programs for addicts exist in cities. Pathways to Housing, a non-profit organization, provides homes for its clients without the need for sobriety, and many participants take advantage of that new stability to seek treatment afterward.

Less than a third of poll respondents ranked monitored drug consumption sites as one of the best interventions to address the crisis. “I don’t think it helps alleviate the problem. I think it makes it worse,” Rivera said. “Everyone should share responsibility and open more rehab centers.”

Dozens of supervised consumption sites operate internationally, and research suggests that overdose deaths are declining. In 2018, Mayor Jim Kenny expressed support for opening places in the city where people could use drugs under supervision and be resuscitated if they overdosed, but the effort has been delayed for years. It has been embroiled in legal battles for years. Since November 2021, clients have used his site over 65,000 times and staff have treated him for over 800 overdoses.

The nonprofit Safehouse, which is working to open a site in Philadelphia, recently announced that it is in talks to settle the federal lawsuit that has so far blocked the site from opening. If the new mayor also decides to open it, public health experts say it will need to consider public concerns.

“The evidence and public opinion don’t always agree,” said Rosie Frasso, director of public health programs at Jefferson. That’s why we couldn’t pull it off.”

About this story

This article is part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by the Renfest Journalism Institute. Primary support is provided by the William Penn Foundation, with additional funding from the Renfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, the Wincourt Foundation and others. To view project details and a full list of backers, please visit Editorial content is produced independently of the project’s contributors.

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