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18% of NYC’s patients are treated in East and Central Harlem

Out of 64 NY State Assembly districts, East Harlem (district 68) and Central Harlem (district 70) combined have 18% of NYC’s total population, or about 5700 patients, despite the fact that the two districts only have 3% of NYC’s population. (East Harlem alone has 14% of NYC’s total opioid treatment capacity, with largest center that hosts 1650 patients located in East Harlem adjacent to the border of Central Harlem.)

Notably, 36 out of 64 districts have no treatment capacity at all, meaning that patients in these districts have to travel long distance to receive treatment.

(SOURCE: OASAS, 2019 FOIL request. OCR and Analysis. More information here)

Below are the 8 districts with more than 4% of NYC’s treatment capacity:

Concerned citizens should write to these assembly members via email or twitter.

District% of NYC’s patients (absolute count)Assembly Member
1) District 68 (East Harlem*) 13.6% (~ 4300)Eddie Gibbs
2) District 84 (South Bronx)11.8% (~3720)Amanda Septimo
3) District 79 (South Bronx Morrisania, Melrose, Belmont)10.6% (~3340)Chantel Jackson
4) District 65 (Lower East Side ) 5.9% (~1880)Yuh Line Niou
5) District 60 (East New York)5.4% (~1700)Nikki Lucas
[, ]
6 & 7) District 70 (Central Harlem)4.7% (~1480)Inez Dickens
[, @DickensAssembNY]
6 & 7) District 66 (West Village)4.7% (~1480)Deborah Glick
[, @DeborahJGlick ]
8) District 86 (West Bronx)4.6% (~1450)Yudelka Tapia
[, @YudelkaTapia]

What do we want? To improve the distribution of programs throughout NYC, we can consider

  1. Make treatment need and capacity data available to the public. Currently, the capacity data is only available through FOIL request, with extremely long turnarounds.
  2. Limiting the treatment capacity to be at most 5% of NYC’s patients in each of the 64 assembly district, or around at most 1500 patients in each district. What does this mean in practice?
    • Only the 5 districts listed above are impacted!
    • At least 20 out of 64 districts would have treatment.
    • Currently, about 5700 patients go to district 68 (East Harlem) and district 70 (Central Harlem) for treatment now. This number would have to be halved if the 5% rule upper limit applies, and 2700 patients will have to be relocated. Such transition is necessary in the long run but will take time. So the implementation could involve a transition period with an upper limit of 7% for 10 years, before setting to 5%.
    • If the State increases overall capacity, it is possible that fewer patients have to be relocated, as 5% of a larger patient base will have more patients counts.
  3. Imposing that every district should have capacity to treat at least 0.5% of NYC’s patients, or about 150 patients. This would help ensure patients can have accessible healthcare near their own neighborhoods—particularly those who might otherwise not participate in treatment at all. To enable this in a pragmatic manner, mobile treatment units could contribute to this goal, similar to the mobile syringe exchange programs already employed by the city..
  4. Limit the size of programs in any one location to 2% of NYC’s patients or 630 patients. This aims to encourage smaller size treatment programs that provide more comprehensive healthcare. Currently, to achieve economies of scale, treatment programs continue to consolidate into “mega” treatment centers. For example, in the Lee Building at 125th Street and Park Avenue, 1850 patients are treated.
  5. Restrict the placement of drug treatment programs and harm reduction programs so they cannot be within 200 feet from each other, schools, playground, and faith based organizations, akin to the “200 feet rule” related to liquor license laws in New York City.

Is the uneven distribution of treatment capacities justified by overdose rates?

The answer is no.

  • In 2020, 20% of overdose death took place in Queens, but this borough only has 7% of NYC’s drug treatment capacity
  • In 2020, 7% of overdose death took place in Staten Island, but this borough only has 3% of NYC’s treatment capacity
  • The total treatment capacity on Staten Island is 6 times fewer than that in East and Central Harlem. (977 patients vs. 5787 patients).

Given the mismatch between drug treatment capacity and needs in New York City, it is no surprise that most patients getting treatment in Harlem do not live in Harlem. In fact, our FOIL data shows that 75% of patients getting treatment in Harlem do not reside in Harlem. See this page for more data.

This mismatch is driven by the push back by wealthier and whiter neighborhoods who don’t want these programs in their backyards. It is also driven by the closure of drug treatment programs in the last 10 years while the opioid epidemic is raging. Our FOIL data shows that NYC lost 19% of drug treatment capacities. See this page for more data.

To see more drug treatment capacity allocation data by Assembly Districts

To see an interactive version of the distributional graph, see this graphic

Opioid Treatment Program Capacities by Assembly District: 36 out of 64 districts have no capacity