The mission of the CENTER Initiative is to reduce overdose, confront the impact of trauma, and invest in the long-term wellbeing of Black people most impacted by addiction, drug use, and overdose in the St. Louis region.

To that end we recognize:

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid between 50-100 times stronger than heroin, has taken over the drug supply in St. Louis. The seven community members we lost in recent days died from ingesting cocaine laced with fentanyl. 

The recent loss of life, though devastating, is not surprising. St. Louis City has one of the highest overdose death rates in the country, especially for Black men. Opioid overdose deaths among Black St. Louisans increased more than 500% in the last 5 years, more than double the increase among White St. Louisans. 

Decades of systemic racism in our region has led to disinvestment and trauma within St. Louis’ Black communities. This disinvestment means that behavioral health and other necessary services are least accessible to those who need them most. Individual and communal trauma often remains unaddressed, which contributes to the development of addiction and many other health inequities. As such, we cannot punish, scold, or shame our way out of this growing poisoning crisis. 

St. Louis and Missouri leaders – we call on you to not let these deaths be in vain. You must urgently invest in approaches that will end this overdose crisis and improve the health and well-being of people who use drugs. It is imperative you invest in Black communities that are experiencing overdose at unprecedented levels.

The CENTER Initiative remains committed to promoting transformative and healing solutions to help save lives and increase the wellness of communities devastated by this crisis. Learn more at:

In solidarity, the CENTER Leadership Team,

Dr. Devin Banks, Dr. Kanika Cunningham, Steve Parish, Dr. LJ Punch, Dr. Rachel Winograd

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *