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Data shows disproportionate distribution of drug treatment in Harlem

Data shows disproportionate distribution of drug treatment in Harlem
Data shows disproportionate distribution of drug treatment in Harlem 02:29

NEW YORK -- Leaders of the Greater Harlem Coalition continue to raise awareness about the disproportionate distribution of drug treatment facilities in their neighborhood. That includes an overdose prevention site in East Harlem, which offers legal supervised injections.

GHC's mission to advocate for neighbors has focused largely on the impacts of addiction.

"The last thing we want is public using, especially in parks," said GHC co-founder Shawn Hill, who was on a walk through Marcus Garvey Park.

The group recently requested data from state agencies and local clinics, finding East Harlem is home to 14% of methadone treatment options, yet houses only 1.4% of the population. Nearly half of other city districts have none.

"Addiction programs get packed into communities of color, but I hadn't realized the degree to which that statement would be true," Hill said.

GHC also found 82% of program patients live elsewhere.

"Ultimately, what we want is for people to be able to get treatment, effective treatment, in their communities," Hill said.

The Center for Comprehensive Health Practice faced backlash before moving into its new space on East 110th Street, but CCHP set itself apart when it was founded in 1960, treating substance abuse alongside primary and mental health care for the entire family.

"Your physical health and your self-care is the least of the things that you worry about, and it doesn't become a priority," CCHP chief medical officer Dr. Mariely Fernandez said, explaining the challenges of seeking help.

Martha Diaz first came to CCHP from the Bronx as a user of heroin and crack, pregnant with her first child.

"I was all over the place," Diaz remembered. "I wasn't doing the right things, but today I can say that I am a good mother and that I'm a good grandmother, and I'm there for them."

Forty years later, Diaz comes to the clinic more for the community than the medicine.

"This is like a second home to me," Diaz said. "I like the company. I have friends here and my counselors here, my doctors. I do everything here."

Fernandez has now helped Diaz's family stay healthy for generations.

"I saw her children when they were teens," Fernandez said, "and then now seeing her grandchildren to me makes me feel so proud because I'm part of something bigger."

This success shows one example addressing the needs of the whole community.

GHC has proposed legislation to request a data-driven distribution of drug treatment facilities and restrict the number of facilities in one district.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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