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GMHC Statement on the Public Health Emergency Declaration About the Opioid Crisis

Americans Deserve Substantive Action on Opioid Epidemic
10.26.2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Cub Barrett | 212-367-1561 | cubb@gmhc.org

Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) remains highly concerned that not enough is being done to address the growing opioid epidemic, which in 2016 claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Americans. While all public health experts agree that there is a need for a coordinated, high-level response to the opioid epidemic, many experts believe that the President’s Public Health Emergency Declaration, issued on Thursday, does little to take real action to address the opioid crisis.

In addition, GMHC strongly opposes potential efforts under the Public Health Emergency Declaration to redirect funding from HIV/AIDS programs. By issuing an order for a Public Health Emergency Declaration rather than a Declaration of Emergency, the Administration has essentially ensured that no new funding would be available from the federal government for the opioid crisis, and created a possibility that funding could be repurposed and taken away from other health emergencies, including HIV and Hepatitis C.

“If the President is truly concerned about the opioid crisis, he should issue a Declaration of Emergency, which includes specific actions designed to address the infectious disease-related aspects of the epidemic—namely, the rising cases of HIV, other STIs, and Hepatitis C related to injection drug use— through the expansion of access to clean injection equipment,” said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. “The Declaration should include funding to expand access to clean injection equipment and address addiction to opioids. It should also provide funding to combat overdoses, including facilitating widespread availability to naloxone to prevent overdose deaths.”

“GMHC urges the President to submit an emergency supplemental appropriations request to grant additional funds to local health departments and community-based organizations, which are disproportionately bearing the burden of the opioid, HIV, and Hepatitis C epidemics, to fund their life-saving work,” Louie continued. “Additionally, we also call for increased funding to supply naloxone to the places that need it most: police departments, homeless shelters, public housing, substance use treatment and syringe service clinics, and other programs that work with injection drug users.”

Public health and criminal justice experts agree that we must break away from old-school treatment of the opioid epidemic as a criminal justice or morality issue, which prioritize law enforcement and criminal justice responses to the epidemic. We must instead respond to the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis, leading a public health and harm-reduction approach to combating the opioid epidemic to protect Americans’ lives.

GMHC stands in solidarity with all people working to end the opioid epidemic. We believe that a strong public health approach will better address the opioid crisis and related public health crises, like Hepatitis C, and also propel us closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.

For more information about GMHC’s harm reduction services, visit http://gmhc.org/gmhc-services/get-connected/harm-reduction.

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis: Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 12,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include: testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit  www.gmhc.org.