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75% Of Patients Sent to Harlem for Opioid Treatment DO NOT Live in Harlem or East Harlem

The majority of patients receiving methadone in Harlem do not live in our community.

A quarter give addresses in the Bronx, while another quarter of the patients come from other parts of Manhattan, and Queens—presumably because of the dearth of treatment programs in those areas. The remainder commutes into Harlem from Brooklyn, Staten Island, and even from outside New York City.

The chart below shows how Harlem opioid treatment programs in fact predominantly serve the larger New York region, not just our Harlem neighbors.

(SOURCE: 2020 OASAS FOIL Request. More information here)

The map below visualizes the thousands of hours patients waste every week traveling to Harlem from their homes for the opioid treatment they cannot obtain in their neighborhoods. Each trek to and from Harlem represents wasted time that could have been spent with their children, or at work, or going to school. Furthermore it’s easy to imagine how these disruptions could make it less likely that the course of treatment will be successful, on top of the risk posed by forcing these vulnerable men and women to seek help in a single centralized location where dealers can easily prey on them.

The opioid treatment facilities in Harlem and East Harlem draw thousands of patients seeking support into our community from all around the greater New York region every day. 18% of all of patients treated for opioid addiction in NYC are treated in East and Central Harlem, despite these districts only housing 3% of the city population. The placement of these programs in Harlem is rationalized by instead claiming that Harlem is where the need is—the data obtained by The Greater Harlem Coalition shows unequivocally that this is a lie. This concentration is far out of proportion to any need demonstrated in Harlem, in terms of overdose deaths or the residences of the addiction-recovery patients themselves.

Harlem and East Harlem have been a dumping ground for drug treatment programs for generations, not because our residents need these programs, but because it’s politically expedient to pack these programs into low income communities of color that can’t push back, and it preserves property values and allays public safety concerns in other, wealthier New York neighborhoods. The over-saturation of Harlem and East Harlem did not come about because of need. Rather, it evolved because of systemic bias and a broad effort to contain the drug crisis in communities of color.

The map below shows how many patients from each zip code commute to Harlem for treatment instead of visiting programs in their own neighborhood. Where this percentage is high, it’s fair to ask why: are there sufficient addiction services in the area to meet the needs of the population without disrupting their lives?