On November 20, 2019 SAFE Project staff attended a meeting of stakeholders in St. Louis who have come together in order to improve the city’s response to the ongoing addiction epidemic. SAFE Project is helping to facilitate this effort, which began last summer. This was the second meeting of the Steering Committee and took place at the city’s Department of Health.
Like many cities, St. Louis has experienced an increase in overdose deaths for the past several years, with recent increases being driven largely by the presence of fentanyl in heroin and other drugs. The city and community have many great people and organizations working tirelessly to address the epidemic – and SAFE Project is grateful for the many who have chosen to be part of this effort.
The Role of SAFE Communities
As one of three key initiatives for SAFE Project, SAFE Communities provides tools to help local communities organize around addressing substance use disorder, including the SAFE Community Playbook. The Playbook draws from the experience of dozens of communities around the country who have had success in reducing overdose fatalities and other impacts of the epidemic.
In the case of individual cities and communities like St. Louis, SAFE Communities is working to directly implement a strategy to:
- Bring stakeholders together in order to improve coordination and tear down traditional silos,
- Identify continued needs and gaps of local programs and services, and
- Help provide solutions that can fill identified gaps and expand needed services.
In St. Louis, SAFE and stakeholders representing both city government and community leaders have made considerable progress. With a strong group of local leaders working on everything from education and prevention, data collection, harm reduction, criminal justice, outreach, treatment, and recovery support, there is a solid core group of organizations represented that know firsthand what challenges the city is facing and what improvements could be made. After helping bring this group together, the SAFE team has helped produce several surveys for the group that have begun the process of identifying priorities and next steps. A discussion of these survey results was the primary topic of the November 20 meeting.
The effort also has support directly from the Mayor’s office and is led by the Director of the St. Louis City Department of Health. This support is critical in getting local government agencies aligned with community leaders working to address the epidemic. This process has already begun and has resulted in improved data sharing and coordination, as well as discussions between the St. Louis PD/EMS and community groups on how outreach and connection to services to those who have recently overdosed can be improved.
SAFE Project and the SAFE Communities team are grateful for the opportunity to work with this dedicated group of individuals, organizations and city officials. We look forward to continuing this work and assisting in any way we can to help these partners save lives, reduce suffering, and help people find and maintain a life in recovery.
If you are interested in learning more about how SAFE Project can help in your community, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.