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D.C. Mayor Declares Opioid Crisis Emergency, Effective Immediately

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Nov. 13 declared a public emergency over the opioid crisis, effective immediately. The number of 2023 opioid deaths in the U.S. capital will exceed last year’s record of 461, which itself is five times higher than ten years ago. In addition, the sickness, crime and social breakdown associated with drug use is spreading widely. Homicides are rising.

The neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland already declared opioid emergencies, in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and a few other states have also done so. Earlier this month the D.C. City Council passed a non-binding resolution demanding action by the Mayor.

Under the new emergency powers, city units will be able to do more to track dope “hot spots,” bypass time-consuming contract conditionalities for drug-related services, etc. Already, private agencies have been doing things like putting out vending machines offering clean needles, dope test strips, Narcan—the life-saving emergency overdose medication naxolone—etc. The person in distress, or their friend, phones a hot line, gets a code, which then goes into the vending machine.

Fentanyl overdoses in the nation’s capital are the specific problem. At the Mayor’s press conference Nov. 13, Deputy Mayor Cianna Creighton said that the opioid crisis is what is driving the U.S. drop in life expectancy.