By many measures, as indicated in The Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2018 “State of the City” report, scheduled for release in early April, Philadelphia is on an upward trend, with an increasing population, strong job growth, and a vibrant arts and culture scene. But the city is also facing one of the highest drug overdose rates in the nation, fueled predominantly by an intensifying opioid crisis.
As Philadelphia works to address this problem, Pew—as part of its commitment to informing dialogue on important issues in the city—will host a panel discussion April 20 on the latest research to improve treatment and prevention options and examples of multitiered strategies being undertaken locally and in other jurisdictions such as Baltimore and Staten Island, New York. The conversation will also focus on successes and barriers to progress in Philadelphia and other cities.
Larry Eichel, director of Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative, will provide opening remarks, including a brief overview of key findings from this year’s “State of the City” report. The panel will be moderated by Maiken Scott, host of WHYY’s “The Pulse.” Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions.
The event is free and open to the public; advance registration is required. Breakfast will be served.
Commissioner of health, city of Philadelphia
Thomas Farley is commissioner of health for the city of Philadelphia. From 2009 to 2014, Farley was commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. As health commissioner, Farley advocated for innovative public health policies, including making the city’s parks and beaches smoke-free, prohibiting discounts on cigarettes, raising the legal sales age for tobacco to 21, capping the portion size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants at 16 ounces, and restricting the burning of air-polluting fuels to heat buildings. He is coauthor of Prescription for a Healthy Nation, with RAND senior scientist Deborah Cohen, and author of Saving Gotham: A Billionaire Mayor, Activist Doctors, and the Fight for 8 Million Lives.
District attorney, Richmond County (Staten Island), New York
Recognizing the significant challenges facing Staten Island as an epicenter in the heroin and opioid crisis, District Attorney Michael McMahon has made the issue a central focus for his office since taking on his role in January 2016. He has coordinated a multifaceted, evidence-based approach to addressing the crisis, including prosecuting dealers, offering supportive services to affected individuals and families, and increasing public awareness through media outreach and educational presentations at the community level. As a result, Staten Island’s opioid-related deaths decreased by 26 percent in 2017. McMahon previously served as the city council member representing Staten Island’s North Shore for eight years before being elected to Congress in 2008.
Director, Pew’s substance use prevention and treatment initiative
Cynthia Reilly directs Pew’s work on federal and state initiatives to reduce the inappropriate use of prescription opioids while ensuring that patients have access to effective pain management. She also focuses on expanding access to effective treatment for substance use disorders through increased use of medication-assisted treatment. Prior to joining Pew, she worked on issues related to the safety and quality of medication use for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in Bethesda, Maryland. Reilly received her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Temple University and her master’s in global health and medical policy from George Mason University.
Special adviser for opioid policy, Baltimore City Health Department
In his role as special adviser for opioid policy, Evan Behrle helps to coordinate Baltimore’s three-pronged response to the unprecedented number of people dying from opioid overdoses: saving lives with naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of the drugs; expanding access to evidence-based treatment; and de-stigmatizing addiction through outreach and education. In 2015, the city’s health department took the extraordinary step of issuing a blanket prescription for naloxone to all 620,000 residents of Baltimore, which has saved over 800 lives since then. Behrle is a former Rhodes scholar and holds a master’s in political philosophy from Oxford University.
Join the discussion on Twitter with @PewHealth using #PewTalksOpioids
In 2016, figure outpaced all but 1 of 44 largest counties, reflecting opioids’ impact
Increasing access to treatment can reduce costs