To the Editor:

Re “Heroin’s Death Toll Rising, City Data Show, Amid a Shift in Who Uses It” (news article, Aug. 28):

New York has many tested solutions available to address the alarming increase in drug overdose deaths. We propose four immediate strategies.

First, we have a major opportunity to expand access to naloxone, the heroin and painkiller overdose antidote, after passage of a law this year making it available without a regular prescription through health care providers and pharmacies.

Second, our drug treatment system urgently needs reform to make therapies backed by strong scientific evidence much more accessible, like the opioid dependency medication buprenorphine, and to deprioritize wasteful, counterproductive approaches like revolving-door detox services.

Third, we must recognize that heroin and opioid analgesics are not the whole story: Last year, 85 percent as many people died from cocaine poisoning as from heroin, but health authorities have consistently ignored the problem.

Finally, resources should be directed where they are most needed. Staten Island and Queens have indeed seen large increases in overdose death rates, but have a fraction of the number of deaths in the Bronx, Northern Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

MATT CURTIS
Policy Director, Vocal New York
New York, Aug. 29, 2014