D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declares public emergency to address D.C.’s ongoing youth violence issue and opioid crisis on Nov. 13. D.C. has a homicide rate of 239, which is 32 percent more than last year this time, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. (Courtesy photo)

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a public emergency on Nov. 13, effective immediately, which will provide D.C. with more ways to address the youth violence issue and the opioid crisis.

“The public emergency will allow us to streamline and expedite our responses,” said Bowser at a live-streamed press conference. “We have way too many people dying in our city due to fentanyl overdoses.”

According to the mayor’s office, from 2018 to 2022, D.C.’s opioid-related deadly overdoses have increased from 213 to 461 a year. Fentanyl was linked to 98 percent of opioid-related fatal overdoses in the District in 2023.

For the opioid crisis, the public emergency will empower the district to include non-fatal overdoses in the data-sharing agreement between the Department of Behavioral Health, DC Health and the Fire and Emergency Medical Services. 

“In just five weeks, five young people have been killed while under electronic monitoring. This number alone tells us that we have to provide more intervention for kids that are in trouble,” said Bowser. “This public emergency will allow us to increase capacity, quickly and efficiently across the continuum of placements for kids that are ordered by judges into care.”

To accomplish this goal, the order will allow the district to incentivize private providers to open additional shelters and expedite renovations at the Youth Services Center to add a 10-bed unit.

From January through October, 458 juveniles have been arrested for robbery, homicide or assault with a dangerous weapon according to the mayor’s office.

Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.