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Public HealthCombating the Overdose Epidemic

Combating the Overdose Epidemic

In 2021, there were approximately 107,000 overdose deaths, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a single year in U.S. history — a nearly 15% increase from 2020. More than 75 percent of these overdose deaths were opioid related.

In November 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a new five-year, $120 million reinvestment to help combat the overdose crisis in the hard-hit states of Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin and will continue support for Michigan and Pennsylvania. A new component of the work will focus on federal advocacy to promote new policies. This investment brings Bloomberg Philanthropies’ total commitment to its Overdose Prevention Initiative, launched in 2018 with $50 million, to $170 million over eight years.



How Public Health, not Punishment, is Preventing Overdose Deaths

The overdose epidemic is one of the worst public health crises we’ve ever faced – 254 Americans die every single day from drug overdoses. It’s tearing families apart across the country, and we need bolder, nationwide action, especially from the federal government – but we can’t afford to wait until that happens.

Michael R. Bloomberg

Bloomberg Overdose Prevention Initiative

The Bloomberg Overdose Prevention Initiative is working with states to combat the overdose epidemic by promoting evidence-based policies and supporting implementation of best practices that can be modeled around the country. To make progress and save lives, the initiative focuses on three pillars to reverse the upward trend of overdose deaths:

Strategy 1: Develop and implement a set of comprehensive evidence-based interventions in hard-hit states.

The seven states where we are doing our work have seen particularly high rates of overdose; Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched deep partnerships with them to create programs and implement policies. This work includes:

  • Expanding treatment for those with opioid use disorders by increasing access to medication treatment and use of naloxone to reverse overdoses
  • Working with law enforcement and criminal justice system to promote treatment over incarceration
  • Developing communications strategies to reduce stigma around addiction
  • Expanding access to harm reduction including syringe service programs
  • Developing better data systems to improve response through enhanced data sharing between public health and law enforcement
  • Monitoring and evaluating effectiveness to improve programmatic response
  • Embedding staff to provide technical expertise and implementation support with interventions

We’ve seen first-hand how working with government, philanthropic, and private sector partners has saved lives and been instrumental in the fight against the opioid overdose epidemic in Pennsylvania. We will continue working with Bloomberg Philanthropies and our stakeholders to adopt evidence-based policies to successfully reduce overdose deaths in our state. Working together, we will save lives.

Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania

Strategy 2: Push for comprehensive federal action on medication treatment and harm reduction.

This work addresses legal and administrative barriers in the federal government that hinder people’s ability to access quality medication treatment and harm reduction services to help save their lives from drug overdose. Through a coordinated advocacy strategy, Bloomberg Philanthropies will work to remove these barriers through lobbying, education, and raising awareness.

Strategy 3: Develop tools and guidelines.

As part of a commitment to share what works and spread effective strategies, Bloomberg Philanthropies has developed tools and guidelines on a wide range of topics to support all states — not just those where the initiative is working directly. These guidelines cover a wide array of topics, including adopting coordinated data systems, promoting public health responses to drug use, developing naloxone distribution recommendations, and providing medication-assisted treatment in jails and prisons. Additional tools and guidelines will be developed to support governments and organizations in their work to support people with substance use disorders.

Top photo: Mike Bloomberg joins Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in Eastpointe, Michigan to announce the Bloomberg Opioid Prevention Network.