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Systemic CARE: A Public Health Approach to Ending Overdose in America

The overdose crisis is one of the most significant public health emergencies in the US, one that has only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

Published By

Center for Popular Democracy

    Overdose rates have increased as many in-person treatment and support options have been shut down. Additionally, the pandemic-imposed social isolation is not only a common trigger for drug use but makes it more dangerous because of the risk of overdosing while alone. The CDC reported that overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 this year (as of April 2021) for the first time, a 28.5% increase from the year prior. 

    For decades, the U.S. has employed police, prisons, and the carceral state to end overdose, but the War on Drugs has only made things worse. It’s ripped apart families, made the drug supply more dangerous, and fueled mass incarceration, devastating Black, brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities.

    In this report, we outline what is needed to end the overdose crisis–a public health approach that prioritizes Harm Reduction and respects the inherent dignity of people who use drugs. Here, we outline the history of this epidemic and the steps we can take to end it. One key step is passing the CARE Act, the most ambitious legislative approach to this crisis Congress has ever attempted. The bill was reintroduced earlier today, and it offers us the best path forward to combat this epidemic.