Out of every 100,000 residents, 109 Black men die from opioid overdose, the highest rate in the state. White males die at a rate of 41.45 for every 100,000 residents, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“The opioid crisis is having a significant impact on underserved populations – especially African American men,” said Dr. Kendra Holmes, Affinia Healthcare president AND CEO.
The City of St. Louis Department of Health awarded Affinia Healthcare a $122,000 grant on July 5 to help increase awareness of ways to prevent and treat opioid misuse. The grant also provides funding to purchase Narcan, a medication used for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose.
“The overdoses directly affect younger, minority populations, the future of our communities."
The numbers are staggering. We want to make sure our communities are aware of how to avoid falling into this trap of addiction, and if they need help, Affinia Healthcare has evidence-
based treatment programs to help them battle the condition,” Holmes said.
The grant is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a cooperative agreement for emergency response issued to the state of Missouri.
“What this means for the City of St. Louis is really getting the word out and just eliminating the stigma that we have in the Black community about substance use and opioid use,” Holmes said.
“That’s really one of the main issues that’s killing Black people is because we don’t talk about when people have substance abuse issues.”
Affinia has launched an awareness campaign targeting youth and residents of St. Louis City. The campaign will include radio advertising, print, bus media, and social media promotion. Narcan will also be promoted through this campaign to increase its availability to the general population.
“Part of the campaign will use videos and other tools to show how easy it is to use Narcan and let the public know they can get the medication at any of our locations, free of charge,” Holmes said.
Affinia Healthcare provides substance misuse treatment through its Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program. As part of a comprehensive care program, patients work with medical and behavioral health professionals to treat the addiction.
“When I was actually [applying for] this grant, I was just thinking about you never see signs in like North St. Louis saying, ‘Hey, if you use opioids, this is where you can get Narcan from or inform people about how to use it,’” Holmes said.
“My vision with this is just to get the information out to tell people and let them know where the resources are because I think if you ask just the people in the general public, ‘Do you know where you can get Narcan? Do you know that you can get it for free?’ I don’t believe that that knowledge is in the Black community.”
Holmes went on to talk about how the crisis not only affects adults, but research shows a significant increase in opioid-related deaths in children.
“The only other piece [about opioid deaths] is related to the accidental ingestion of opioids with children, and we’re seeing an increase in that occurring, and children dying because mom or dad has an opioid or fentanyl in the house and the kids ingested and the kids are dying,” she said. With the aid of its grant, Affinia Healthcare is now offering Narcan in its pediatrics department.
“If you need this Narcan in your house, we want you to have it in case there is an accidental ingestion so that that child can be saved, no questions asked,” Holmes said.
Narcan is available to the public through Affinia Healthcare pharmacies and outreach initiatives.