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Opioid crisis continues to impact the Black community

Fentanyl Opioids CNN
Posted at 4:58 PM, Jun 13, 2024

BALTIMORE — For years, opioid overdoses have been an ongoing problem in the Black community. Now, community members say city leaders need to step in.

Drug addiction is very complex and some of the concerns at today's meeting at Douglas Memorial Community Church highlighted that. People mentioned it's not just about getting the drugs off the street, but giving people resources they need to overcome the addiction. They say none of it is possible without the help of city leaders.

"6,000 body bags is how you've got to imagine that lined up in our street and yet we have no one from an elected office in this building today that's a crisis right there," said Rikki Vaughn, a local business owner.

Vaughn was upset to see no city leaders present at the meeting. He says everyone wants the city to improve. But, in order for that to happen, leaders must get involved.

"If you want to fix this problem in Baltimore City, we've got to get our elected officials out of City Hall and put them on North Avenue, put them on McCullough Street, put them in downtown Baltimore, put them in the senior buildings, we're gonna fix this problem," said Vaughn.

Many concerns that were voiced at the meeting include the affect opioids have on Black men over 50.

Some ways to resolve the crisis include raising awareness, promoting equity in healthcare and not just focusing on getting drugs off the street but also providing work keeping people off the street.

"We've got to make sure that we got jobs. We have opportunities and to be honest with you, one of the things that I see more than anything else is mental health. We've got to do a better job with mental health. What's happening in peoples lives, and mentally is causing them to turn to other resources to help them to cope with life," said Gregory Dennis, president of ACT Now Baltimore.

Until something changes, many feel opioids will continue taking the lives of Black men.

Dennis says the high number of opioid deaths isn't what's the most shocking.

"What's shocking is that that number has not gone down over the last six years and that's what I think we need to work on," said Dennis.

Vaughn says change is imminent and as a business owner, he believes city leaders need to put in more effort to fix this problem.

"As a business owner, I go, and I analyze what's going on in my restaurants and it doesn't take me four years to fix the problem. We know we have a drug problem in Baltimore, and we know where the drugs are being sold," said Vaughn.