Devin Reaves describes himself as “a product of the crack epidemic of the ’80s.”

“It destroyed a generation,” he said.

Reaves is working to solve problems that he thinks could have been solved years ago with Philadelphia’s opioid task force, which is comprised of four subcommittees with members in health care and criminal justice professions. Reaves also works with organizations like Young People in Recovery and does his own activism and advocacy work.

Reaves said finding a solution to the opioid epidemic must coincide with social justice. Finding care that works for all people looking for resources begins with leveling the playing field, he said, but then we have to focus on removing the fence. Disparities in care between white and Black people with substance use disorder have been a social justice issue since the War on Drugs, which had a devastating effect on Black communities.

“[But] now that white kids are dying of drugs, it’s something that we have to have congressional hearings about,” Reaves said.

While keeping social justice as his focus, Reaves will serve on the opioid task force for the duration of the three-month project. Reaves is exploring the implementation of safe injection sites, which he said would decrease overdose deaths in North Philadelphia by 30%, and ensuring that police carry Narcan.

“Every overdose death is preventable,” he said. “But we don’t teach people how to use drugs safely.”