Mayor Tishaura O. Jones has declared August 31, 2023 International Overdose Awareness Day in the City of St. Louis. International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died from overdose, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.
“Every overdose impacts many lives,” said Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “Those who have lost a loved one to substance abuse, first responders, and health care workers understand: Solving this crisis requires new ideas and compassion. Through the City of St. Louis Department of Health and the Office of Violence Prevention, St. Louis is deploying new tools to help prevent substance abuse and connect individuals to the support they need.”
The overall trend in drug overdose fatalities in St. Louis has increased over the past five years. According to the City of St. Louis Department of Health, overdose fatalities rose 30% from 375 in 2018 to 487 in 2022 with fentanyl responsible for most deaths followed by cocaine and then alcohol.
“The rise in fatalities is alarming, and the Department of Health in collaboration with our community partners is dedicated to addressing this complex public health issue,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, Director of Health for the City of St. Louis. “It’s also why when I came to work under Mayor Jones, we shared a key priority to address mental health and substance use through the creation of the department’s Behavioral Health Bureau.”
The City of St. Louis Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Bureau works to address substance use and mental health concerns by providing linkage to care providers, distributing Narcan to the community, collaborating with stakeholders to sustain meaningful, resourceful community partnerships including grassroots neighborhood organizations, crime prevention, crisis response, law enforcement, and providing training and capacity-building for community organizations.
“In moving toward its goal of prioritizing behavioral health as a part of a comprehensive public health approach, the bureau improves access to mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment, with a heightened focus on opioid abuse through patient walk-ins, incoming calls, social media, and community outreach” said Dr. Julie Gary, Chief of the Behavioral Health Bureau.
This work continues alongside St. Louis’ new Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) which marshals city and community resources to address root causes of crime like substance abuse to make neighborhoods safer.
“Making our neighborhoods safer requires addressing root causes of crime like substance abuse,” said OVP Director Wil Pinkney. “The City is working with our community violence intervention partners to support families with resources and education.”
Through the American Rescue Plan Act, OVP has dedicated funding for The T, a community organization working to address opioid addiction and abuse through education and narcan distribution.
“Overdose is an often fatal and yet preventable complication of drug use, adding to the trauma already felt by our communities,” said Dr. LJ Punch, Founder of The T. “With the right knowledge and resources, we can collectively reduce the harm of opioids and prevent overdose related deaths when we recognize how #TraumaIsTheRealDrug that is driving opioid use overall.”
A copy of the proclamation is attached.