Mayor Adams Announces City’s Support Program Served 750+ Family Members Of Fatal Overdose Victims

May 3, 2024

NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jason Graham today announced that the city has served more than 750 family members of fatal overdose victims.

They have down this through a first-in-the-nation support program through the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Since launching in late 2022, OCME’s Drug Intelligence and Intervention Group (DIIG) — a unit staffed by trained social workers and public health professionals — has offered support to surviving family members and close contacts as they cope with pressing needs in the wake of the overdose deaths of loved ones. Nearly 80 percent of those contacted, over 750 people, accepted a wide range of services, including grief and bereavement support, mental health and substance use counseling, health care, and housing support. The DIIG program builds on the city’s work to reduce opioid deaths by 25 percent by 2030 as part of ‘HealthyNYC,’ Mayor Adams’ plan to extend the lifespan of all New Yorkers.

“As the fentanyl crisis continues to ravage communities across the country, New York City is taking action to save lives and support the loved ones who have been left behind,” said Mayor Adams. “New Yorkers who lose loved ones to drug overdoses need our help without stigma, and this first-in-the-nation model will deliver the support they deserve.”

“The medical examiner’s office interacts with New Yorkers at some of the most difficult moments in their lives,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “As we know in recent years, so many of those loved ones have been lost to the opioid crisis. The Drug Intelligence and Intervention Group is a team of social workers and public health professionals, one of the first models of its kind in the nation, that reach out to impacted family members and friends to provide support and a connection to a variety of services if needed. Thank you to Dr. Graham for his leadership and to the thoughtful and caring team at OCME.”


“The opioid crisis touches every community in our city, and fatal drug overdoses leave behind loved ones who often struggle in silence with unmet needs,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Graham. “Our program recognizes the unique challenges facing this diverse population of New Yorkers, and evolves the role of the medical examiner to include making connections to care and services for surviving family members, with the aim of improving and even saving lives.”

“The overdose crisis has taken lives from our city and loved ones from our sides,” said New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Supporting the loved ones of those we’ve lost, whether navigating the emotional impacts or accessing resources, is a valuable tool as we work together to foster a healthier New York City.”

Launched in late 2022 as the first initiative of its kind in a medical examiner’s office, DIIG has expanded from a small pilot to a fully staffed program focused on the wide-ranging needs of communities that have lost loved ones to fatal drug overdoses. The program currently reaches nearly 80 percent of the close contacts it attempts to reach. Reducing overdose deaths is central to “HealthyNYC,” the city’s ambitious health agenda that aims to increase the life expectancy of New Yorkers to 83 years by the year 2030. HealthyNYC was codified into local law last month. The major steps outlined in HealthyNYC build on the Adams administration’s efforts to create a healthier and safer city, including through programs like “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City” — the city’s plan to improve family and child mental health while addressing the overdose crisis — as well as Mayor Adams’ “Blueprint to End Gun Violence.


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“As a federal grant program that invests in partnerships to build safe and healthy communities, it is hard to imagine a better investment than the vision Dr. Graham has championed for the DIIG initiative at OCME,” said Chauncey Parker, executive director, New York/New Jersey HIDTA. “What started as a blank sheet of paper and an inspiring idea is now the national model for how a medical examiner’s team can play a vital role saving lives.”

“I am thrilled to see social workers and public health professionals engaged in such a vital program that is making a vast difference and saving lives,” said Nabila El-Bassel, professor, Columbia University School of Social Work. “While all the services offered by the DIIG program help to strengthen those grieving, the linkages to treatment and services are life saving for family members and close contacts, in order for them to come to terms with their loss and move forward. This non-stigmatized, community-driven approach should be celebrated and replicated nationwide.”

Photo credit: HWM.


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