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Greater Harlem Coalition Logo

August 23, 2023



4 Years After GHC Announced This Finding

In 2018, the Sugar Hill Concerned Neighbors joined with the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, and The Harlem Neighborhood Block Association, to form The Greater Harlem Coalition.  One of the things that Sugar Hill brought to the table was a Freedom of Information Law release of data showing where Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs)  - methadone, primarily - were located in New York City, and also how many people from NYC's various zip codes were attending these OTPs.

With this data, The Greater Harlem Coalition produced the donut chart (below) that showed, for the first time, that Harlem's Opioid Treatment Programs were not serving their neighbors, Harlem's OTPs were serving the people of The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and even Long Island and Westchester. 

For decades, politicians, government officials, and addiction treatment providers had lied to the residents of Harlem and East Harlem.  They lied by saying that program after program (there are now 12 OTPs in Harlem and East Harlem)  were being located in this community for our neighbors - for Harlem residents who need support and treatment.  What they didn't say was that Harlem and East Harlem were being redlined (again) as an addiction treatment containment zone in order to keep addiction treatment programs out of wealthier and frequently whiter neighborhoods.

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Congress Member Espaillat and New York Governor Hochul issued a joint statement last week regarding opioid treatment provided in Harlem.  The governor's office and the Congress Member acknowledged that our community is oversaturated and the governor's office released data finally acknowledging conclusions reached by The Greater Harlem Coalition (GHC) from our analysis of multiple FOIL data sets from the Office of Addiction Support and Services (OASAS).  Nearly 5 years ago GHC provided the first proof - based on this OASAS FOIL data - that the majority of people obtaining opioid treatment in Harlem, were sent here for treatment from other neighborhoods.


Acknowledging Addiction Treatment Oversaturation In Harlem

Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) and Governor Kathy Hochul announced immediate actions to improve the way opioid treatment is provided in Harlem. The effort will support the Harlem community while continuing New York's efforts to fight the overdose crisis that has taken thousands of lives.

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According to Governor Hochul's office, over 2/3 of all people attending opioid treatment programs in Harlem do not live in Harlem.  They commute here.

“These measures will directly address community concerns while we work to identify additional long-term solutions to improve the density of services in Harlem," Representative Espaillat and Governor Hochul said. "Supporting and providing health care to New Yorkers struggling with addiction remains a joint priority, and we will continue to work together to tackle this statewide public health crisis head on.”

Under the framework developed by Representative Espaillat and Governor Hochul, two immediate steps will be taken. First, the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) will work with opioid treatment program providers to address high foot traffic and idling at certain sites while better serving existing patients. To do so, providers will shift to requiring fewer visits to receive take-home medications, when appropriate, which will eliminate barriers to life-saving treatment and reduce the number of in-person visits needed for each patient.

Additionally, OASAS will expand the Mobile Medication Unit (MMU) program to additional regions later this year, including Wards Island, helping to alleviate foot traffic issues along the 125th Street corridor. The MMU program launched this year with a $6 million investment and is designed to reach underserved areas and people who have difficulty accessing treatment by bringing services directly to them.

Harlem was lied to for decades when told that addiction programs located here were to address the needs of their neighbors. Instead, addiction programs located here serve the larger New York region. By redlining Harlem as an addiction treatment containment zone, the oversaturation of addiction programs furthered the insidious perception that addiction is endemic in communities of color.


Neighborhood Overdose Rates Relative to the NYC Average Overdose Rate

The graph below shows how each New York City neighborhood compares to the overall New York City average overdose rate (which as we all know, is rising with the appearance of fentanyl).

By comparing neighborhoods to the NYC average, trends regarding overdosing hot spots become more evident.

Both Harlem and East Harlem (red colored lines - East Harlem above, Harlem below) are on good trajectories - they are decreasing relative to the NYC average, whereas a number of Bronx communities (colored blue) are increasing relative to the average NYC overdose rate.

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Ophelia Markets Opioid Treatment

An attempt to 'disrupt' opioid treatment has placed aggressive advertising posters in Philadelphia

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They offer a "transparent" cash payment option of just under $200 per month for Suboxone (if eligible)...

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