PHILADELPHIA–In response to a public health crisis unlike anything in the last century, the City of Philadelphia recognizes International Overdose Awareness Day. This is a global event held on August 31st every year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.
Philadelphia had close to 1,300 overdose deaths last year — the vast majority from opioids — and almost 300 in the first quarter of this year. And if you think those statistics are far removed from your life and reflect a moral failing on the part of the victims, Health Department spokesman James Garrow says, that is exactly why the city chose to observe this day.
“This day really hopes to bring it out into light that overdose happens to regular people and we should all be more cognizant of the humanity that’s suffering with these problems,” Garrow said.
By Pat Loeb
As the city has stepped up its screening efforts, it has documented more new cases, said Dr. Lenore Asbel, a medical specialist with the department.
“I don’t know if there is a substantial increase as much as there is an increase in our being able to find people who are infected,” she said.
By Darryl C. Murphy
Billboards are popping up around the city of Philadelphia promoting breastfeeding among women of color.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Vector Control staff is planning to apply treatments to control adult mosquitoes on Wednesday evening, August 29th, at or around dusk, in a section of Upper Roxborough. Weather permitting, spraying will take place at the Upper Roxborough Reservoir located between Port Royal and Summit Avenues between Lare and Eva Streets.
A spokesperson for the city said in an email that federal authorities were focusing on the wrong thing.
“The federal government should focus its enforcement on the pill mills and illegal drug traffickers who supply the poison that is killing our residents, not on preventing public health officials from acting to keep Philadelphians from dying,” the spokesperson said. “Instead of threatening cities and states, they should bring possible solutions to the table that will save lives.”
By John Mitchell
he division set out to find women that the city’s health clinics served and use their images for billboards and promotional material to be distributed as part of the Philly Loves Breastfeeding campaign.
“Our campaign just shows real Philadelphia moms throughout the city breastfeeding their baby — just normal, not a big deal, this is how you feed a baby,” Kinsman said.
By Nina Feldman
Over in North Philly, Emily Kehoe tramples through an overgrown back alley as a fierce-sounding dog locked up nearby barks like mad. Kehoe ignores the mutt and presses on, stepping over brambles and trash to a trap set the day before.
“There are leaves, buckets, tires, everything mosquitos like,” says the mosquito surveillance and control technician for the city’s Health Department. “I just saw this area yesterday, thought it’d be a good place for a trap, set one up, and we’ll see if we caught anything.”
She did – dozens upon dozens of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which like to breed in the small puddles that form inside old tires, discarded buckets, or broken bottles.
“It is an interesting job, that’s for sure – like nothing I’ve had,” says Kehoe, who has a master’s degree in public health. “I’m crawling through alleys, looking in people’s yards for standing water. I do get some strange looks, but once I explain that I’m here to help them get rid of mosquitos, they are fully on board… most of the time.”
Kehoe is on the lookout for Zika, West Nile, and other nasty viruses spread by the bloodsucking bugs. Every day, the city readies itself for a dreadful tomorrow. Officials monitor the outbreaks of diseases and the predicted paths of distant hurricanes. If there is an emergency on this day, the city has 15,552 water bottles on hand, just in case. It’s work that goes unnoticed. And everyone, including those who do it, hope that’s the way things stay.
By Jim Saksa
James Garrow, a spokesman for the health department, said Rosenstein’s op-ed doesn’t change the evidence showing that overdose prevention sites save lives.
“The federal government should focus its enforcement on the pill mills and illegal drug traffickers who supply the poison that is killing our residents, not on preventing public health officials from acting to keep Philadelphians from dying,” he said.
By Victoria Colliver, Dan Goldberg, and Rachel Roubein