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The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Health and Human Services have called on public health departments and health care systems to work with housing providers, community development organizations, and other housing agencies to help expand access to life-saving overdose reversal medications.

Addressing the overdose epidemic is a priority for President Joe Biden’s Unity Agenda, which focuses on issues that all Americans can come together on and make progress. Expanding access to overdose reversal medications, such as naloxone—now available for over-the-counter purchase—also is a key part of Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy.

According to the joint letter from the federal agencies, drug overdose deaths in the United States remain at high levels, with over 107,000 lives lost in the past year. “Providing training to those who work with individuals who are experiencing homelessness, others at risk of overdose, and the lay public who might respond to an overdose is a key strategy in ensuring naloxone and other opioid overdose reversal medications are effectively administered during overdose situations,” stated the letter.

While overdose reversal medications are often found in schools, libraries, and other community institutions, the letter called for having them readily available in and around public housing settings, multifamily housing programs, housing counseling offices, and programs for those experiencing homelessness.

“Many overdoses happen in the home, and providing access to an effective and easy-to-use medication that can reverse an overdose is just common sense,” said Julia Gordon, assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner. “We urge our assisted housing property owners and managers to make this life-saving medication readily available to their residents and guests.”

Richard Monocchio, principal deputy assistant secretary for Public and Indian Housing at HUD, added that no person who lives in public housing or units assisted by vouchers should risk losing their lives or the lives of loved ones to overdoses out of fear of losing their housing. “Naloxone and other overdose reversal medications save lives and should be as available in public housing as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.”