Updated: Apr 1
The United States is suffering from a drug overdose epidemic. In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data from its National Center for Health Statistics showing that more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. over a 12-month period ending in April 2021.
Precipitated in part by a more dangerous drug supply, including the synthetic opioid fentanyl, this alarming trend represents a nearly 30% increase over the year before, stemming in part from factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the challenge of reversing this epidemic may seem daunting, we must remember that change is always sparked at the grassroots level. CJI grantees across the country are already leading the charge.
CJI's Leadership Circle and Starving the Beast Fund stepped in with major funding of organizations engaged in lifesaving syringe exchange and other harm-reduction outreach efforts.
Grants of $15,000 each were awarded to Aileen’s of Federal Way, Washington; Challenges, Inc. (South Carolina Syringe Exchange) of Piedmont, South Carolina; Material Aid and Advocacy Program (MAAP) of Cambridge, Massachusetts; North Texas Rural Resilience of Frisco, Texas; Southside Harm Reduction Services of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in support of syringe exchange and free harm reduction materials.
MAAP is also taking part in a harm-reduction coalition that advocates for the implementation of safe consumption sites in Massachusetts. As the overdose crisis grows, public opinion is rapidly shifting across the country. In November 2021, the first officially authorized safe havens for people to use injection and other drugs was approved to open in New York City.
Long operating in Canada, Australia, and Europe to curb deadly overdoses, these privately run overdose prevention centers (also known as safer consumption spaces or supervised injection sites) provide a medically monitored setting for people who use drugs to do so safely. So far, the NYC sites have been credited with saving at least 59 people from fatal overdose.