Contrary to media reports, the opioid epidemic on Staten Island is not confined to affluent young white residents, and affects all neighborhoods, races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) is published in a report titled, “Staten Island Needs Assessment: Opioid Addiction Prevention and Treatment Systems of Care,” issued by the District Attorney’s Office for Staten Island. The findings were presented by the Office of the District Attorney – Richmond County on September 20.
[Photo: Dr. Silvia Martins]
The researchers conducted a case study based on interviews with 61 individuals in Staten Island affected by the crisis, supplemented by a literature review and assessment of treatment capacity and distribution of services on the island.
While the problem was sometimes described by interviewees as primarily impacting youth, in 2016, the median age of overdose was 37.
“People addicted to opioids on Staten Island come from all neighborhoods, races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds, a finding that goes against reports by local media, portraying the epidemic as one that primarily affects white youth in the more affluent neighborhoods,” said Dr. Silvia Martins, professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. “It is critical to provide opioid addiction services where they are most needed.”
Dr. Martins and colleagues found that some areas with the most overdoses are also the most underserved in terms of opioid addiction treatment clinics. There are only two methadone providers on the island and three inpatient clinics, and only one offers detox. Both the methadone and inpatient clinics were typically at full capacity, suggesting an opportunity for expansion of these services.
“In addition to expanding methadone services and detox capacity, the importance of individualizing care through customized health plans, as well as strengthening aftercare cannot be overstated,” observed Dr. Martins.
“Helping people manage opioid dependence is a vital area of improvement on the island,” said Dr. Lisette Nieves,a partner at Lingo Ventures, a non-profit consultancy, and an adjunct faculty member at SIPA. “After an individual has returned home from rehabilitation services, they need ongoing support, either through official counseling or support groups.”
Other report recommendations:
The report was supported by the District Attorney’s Office for Staten Island and SIPA.