Plan summarizes progress and ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis

PHILADELPHIA – The City today released its 2021 Opioid Response Action Plan, detailing the administration’s ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis.

“This Action Plan demonstrates both how far Philadelphia has come and how far we still must go in the fight against Opioid Use Disorder,” said Mayor Kenney. “Significant progress had been made in saving lives by reducing overdose deaths, empowering impacted communities, and reducing crime in recent years. I am incredibly proud of the work being done, but these are just the first steps of many. Our efforts will not end until there are clean streets, a healthy population, and thriving communities, untainted by the scourge of opioids.”

The plan, available here, includes:

  • A summary of the Opioid Response Unit (ORU), the permanent successor to the Philadelphia Resilience Project, tasked with coordinating the multi-departmental response to the epidemic.
  • The most recent trends about substance use in Philadelphia, including a dramatic rise in the number fatal overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Progress made in 2020, including lessons learned during the pandemic.
  • Goals for 2021 and beyond.

The ORU is an effort to bring together leaders from different City departments to address Philadelphia’s opioid crisis. It ensures everyone is working under the same strategy, and is sharing resources and expertise. The team began convening regularly in February 2020 to build upon work that the Resilience Project had begun.

“Last year’s launch of the Opioid Response Unit is the culmination of five years of efforts to stem the tide of Opioid Use Disorder in Philadelphia,” said Managing Director Tumar Alexander. “In the past, City Departments and partners responded valiantly, but often separately, to improve conditions in communities impacted by substance abuse. We recognized that no significant progress would be made unless we worked collectively. The Opioid Response Unit is a permanent, coordinated command group looping together City agencies and private partners to aggressively respond to the tragic epidemic impacting our City. The ORU is just getting started. We are here with you every step of the way.”

The mission is to save lives and promote the healing of communities by preventing and treating opioid-use disorder and breaking the cycle of the opioid burden on communities. In order to achieve this mission, the ORU is guided by a five-year plan to:

  • Use a data-driven focus on root causes.
  • Collaborate with communities.
  • Strategically mobilize resources.

“The lessons of the Resilience Project are many, but none so important as the effectiveness of true coordination,” said Noelle Foizen, Executive Director of the ORU. “The City’s resources are limited and it is crucial that our response to the scourge of opioids be efficient and effective. The ORU, by coordinating the work and expertise of nearly three dozen separate agencies, will work to ensure that. And in turn, we can then save lives and improve conditions in the communities that have suffered the most.”

The ORU has convened four strategy groups that divide up this responsibility: Community Support, Prevention, Public Safety, and Treatment. Each strategy group has established goals for 2021 to reduce overdoses and improve quality of life. Some notable goals include:

  • A multi-step ‘Fentanyl in Everything’ public awareness campaign to inform the public that fentanyl is being found in all street drugs (underway).
  • The launch of Kensington Community Resilience Fund, a community-driven. project to distribute grants from philanthropists to Kensington non-profit agencies (launching this month).
  • The opening of the Kensington Police District in January 2021.