Redlining and Opioid Treatment Programs in New York City

The New York State addiction agency – OASAS – has licensed decades of opioid treatment programs (OTPs) throughout New York.

Examining the locations of the 69 OTPs in New York City, shows a non-random spatial pattern that can be compared to neighborhoods that were racially redlined in 1938. When the two geographies (separated by over 80 years) are overlaid, a shocking correspondence is immediately seen. 96% of OASAS licensed OTPs in New York City, are located in residential areas that had been redlined as “Definitely Declining” or “Hazardous”.

[The map, above, shows 1938 redlined New York City with dots indicating the location of 21st century opioid treatment programs]

This classic example of conscious and unconscious structural racism – locating OTPs under the guise of care while actually mirroring an 80 year-old map’s racist community designations – has had tremendously negative consequences for Harlem and East Harlem. The intense density of large methadone mega centers attracts a daily influx of drug dealers who feed and profit on the concentration of methadone patients. The dealers in turn attract (non-patient) users, who commute into Harlem and East Harlem in order to purchase. The inevitable outcome is that dealing increases, using increases, and overdoses increase – all of which are then used by OASAS to justify increasing the capacity of programs in fragile communities.

To see the full presentation of this cycle, see the video below – a presentation at Rockefeller Institute of Government at the Developing Evidence-Based Drug Policy Conference 2021.

https://fordham.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=b8f0dec0-2592-475d-8e8e-adc600cc2bd6

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