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On International Overdose Awareness Day, NACCHO Honors Local Health Departments and Remembers Those Lost to Overdose

Aug 29, 2022 | Emily Winkelstein

Statement by NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman

Washington, DC, August 29, 2022 — On August 31, 2022, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, marks International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). We honor the lives of all who have been lost to overdose, and we offer our deepest gratitude to health department staff, community and government partners, advocates, and individuals who work tirelessly to end overdose. IOAD offers a critical public platform to collectively raise awareness of the injustice of preventable overdose death, challenge drug-related stigma, share in grief for those lost, and reaffirm our commitment to a steadfast and equitable response to the overdose crisis.

An estimated 108,886 people died of drug overdose in the United States during 2021. These data represent the continued and alarming rise of overdose deaths since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – fatalities have increased a stunning 44% since March 2020. While overdose deaths continue to increase among all groups, we see the greatest increases among Black and Indigenous communities, once again shining a light on the impact of structural inequities and racism on health outcomes.

NACCHO is proud to share the ways in which local health departments are working to prevent and respond to overdose, including:

  • Increasing access to naloxone and drug checking tools, elevating anti-stigma campaigns, expanding linkage to care and medications for opioid use disorder, and implementing post-overdose outreach programs. Local health departments funded through NACCHO’s Implementing Overdose Prevention at the Local Level (IOPSLL) portfolio to reduce fatal and non-fatal overdose are using creativity, collaboration, and innovation – often with limited capacity given the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and now Monkeypox – to support communities experiencing the highest burden of overdose death. NACCHO currently has an open Request for Applications (RFA) to expand this important work. We extend our sincere appreciation to all current and past IOPSLL sites for their commitment to preventing overdose and promoting safety for people who use drugs.
  • Advancing health equity in the response to overdose prevention through peer mentorship, advocacy, and collective learning. NACCHO knows that racialized drug policies, stigma, and structural inequities have shaped generational health disparities including disproportionately high rates of overdose death among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native communities. An equitable response to overdose must be accountable to this history, elevate community-driven strategies, and remove barriers to comprehensive care.
  • Implementing vital trauma-informed and harm reduction approaches to overdose that center the lives and experiences of those most impacted. NACCHO appreciates the many ways local health departments and community partners have continued their work despite political challenges, stigma, and grief as overdoses rise to unprecedented levels. The increase of non-pharmaceutical fentanyl in the drug supply coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a devastating impact, but our partners continue to amplify the message that opioid overdose is preventable.

On this International Overdose Awareness Day, NACCHO salutes our public health partners in communities across the country, shares in their grief and outrage for those who have been lost, and calls for a comprehensive, equitable, and bold response in honor of their memory.

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About NACCHO
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.


About Emily Winkelstein

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