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·Senior Editor
·7 min read
America’s overdose crisis has put the spotlight on racial inequalities in drug policy, according to several experts.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that fatal drug overdoses were up 28.3% for the 12-month period ending in September 2020, driven in large part by the synthetic opioid fentanyl. And Black Americans were hit the hardest by overdose deaths.

“There are some who say: ‘When America has a cold, Black America has pneumonia,’” Tracie Gardner, vice president of policy advocacy at the Legal Action Center, told Yahoo Finance (video above). “It’s this idea that the inequities that have been perpetuated our entire time in this country have been cumulative. It’s been generational. And each year we don’t address the structural problems, we just pile on more to systems that can’t care.”

In addition to a drug overdose epidemic over the last decade, the U.S. has been grappling with a coronavirus pandemic over the last 16 months that has been particularly devastating for communities of color.

Black Americans are 2.8 times as likely as their white counterparts to be hospitalized from COVID-19, the disease caused by the latest coronavirus, and 1.9 times more likely to die from it. There’s no one clear answer as to why that is, though it’s likely connected to socioeconomic factors such as income level, housing situations, and overall well-being.

“We started out on broken footing,” she said. “I’m not saying that Black people are broken but just the infrastructure — because that also tells us why COVID ravaged so many Black communities in such a disproportionate way — needed to be there that keeps communities healthy and safe has never been invested in.”

Gardner noted that she saw this first-hand in April 2020, when New York City was the epicenter of the global pandemic.

“That’s really one of the striking things about COVID that I’ll never forget because I’m in Brooklyn, and I’m in between two large hospitals that treat predominantly the Black and Latino communities,” she said. “Early on, when people were saying that COVID was a hoax and they were showing the parking lots of hospitals where it was all calm and nothing was going on — those hospitals weren’t in Black communities.”

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