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Letter to AG James on Use of Opioid Settlement Funds (October 2021)

Dear Attorney General James.

I am writing to add my voice to the many you have heard asking you to use funds from the opioid settlement to address the problem of disproportionate distribution of drug treatment centers that is so negatively affecting the already vulnerable neighborhood of Harlem. 

As you know, over 75% of the people being treated in Harlem commute (6 days a week) from other areas that do not provide access to treatment. This is detrimental to health outcomes for the patients and to the quality of life in our neighborhood. And the problem keeps getting worse, with providers continuing to expand facilities and establish new ones, all in this same area. I have lived here only 10 years, but even in that short time, there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of life.

The funds could be used to redestribute drug treatment facilities more appropriately and constructively. An independent committee that evaluates density of service vs. density of LOCAL need could be established to pinpoint which areas are underserved (Staten Island, for example), and suggest capacities for those. These numbers could then be used to determine whether a provider is granted permission to expand or establish new facilities in any given area, and to move facilities out of places where they are excessive. Financial incentives could be offered to offset the additional cost to providers of moving facilities into new and, likely, more expensive areas, including legal fees to respond to NIMBY lawsuits.

Funds could also be used to help patients afford less burdensome alternatives to methadone.

Finally, as we wait for the density to decrease through these measures, funds could be used to increase sanitation, including more trash cans and more frequent pick-up, and to create a team of mobile social workers and drug counselors, who could walk the areas around the treatment centers to offer follow-up help to patients, as well as to the un-treated addicts who flock here to buy the drugs that are so readily available on the street  —  dealers know where the facilities are and come here to prey on this concentration of the vulnerable population of patients who are trying to get clean.

Thank you for all you do!


Kate Neuman

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