Dec 15, 2022

Housing Works Speaks Out Against Governor Hochul’s Rejection of OPC’s

Housing Works Speaks Out Against Governor Hochul’s Rejection of OPC’s

Anthony Feliciano, VP for Community Mobilization shared remarks at the State Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday in opposition to Governor Hochul’s December 6th letter, which rejected key recommendations from community members. Below is text of the statement:

We express our deepest disappointment and outrage over Governor Hochul rejecting the use of opioid settlement funds to support overdose prevention centers (OPCs). This decision, along with the accompanying statement from OASAS, are both incorrect and incompatible with sentiments and concerns expressed by the Administration and the Governor’s stated commitment to address the pain caused by the overdose crisis. It is simply not true that the Administration lacks the legal authority to authorize and fund OPCs, and we demand that the Governor to use her executive powers under the NYS Constitution and Public Health Law to direct the NYS Health Commissioner to authorize OPCs to address the public health crisis of overdose deaths. We strongly support the NY State Opioid Settlement Funds Advisory Board’s (OSF) well-considered recommendation released last month that OPCs are an appropriate, evidence-based use of Settlement Funds.

Housing Works is a healing community of people experiencing HIV and AIDS. A principal focus of our work is ending AIDS as an epidemic in all New York communities and populations. Improving drug user health is an essential component. Over 6,100 of New Yorkers died from preventable overdose in 2021 and 107,000 have died from drug overdose in the US, and data for 2022 indicate that we are on a trajectory for even worse outcomes this year. These staggering numbers demonstrate the need for immediate expansion of all proven harm reduction strategies to reduce overdose deaths.

OPCs are safe, clean spaces where individuals can safely inject or otherwise use their pre-obtained drugs with sterile equipment while also gaining access, onsite or by referral, to routine health, mental health, drug treatment and other social services. A large body of evidence demonstrates that

OPCs save lives, connect people who use drugs to supportive care and resources, and reduce the incidence of transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis.

Both evidence and experience support meaningful investments by NYS in OPCs. In just one year of operation, NYC’s On Point’s two OPCs have saved over 600 lives and connected thousands of New Yorkers to needed services. Additional lives saved and clients served are reported every day as the centers continue to operate without interference from the federal government. It is time for New York State to significantly expand access to OPC services as a vital missing piece of our response to the growing number of lives lost and the suffering of friends, families and loved

ones. We support a full range of harm reduction approaches to end overdose deaths and eliminate new HIV and HCV infections attributable to drug use. For these reasons, we stand with the OSF Advisory Board to ensure distribution of funding to OPCs, one of the many support programs and evidence-based practices with demonstrated effectiveness.

Housing Works strongly support the OSF Advisory Board’s recommendations that all opioid settlement funds be issued through an RFA process that fairly evaluates each proposed program, including OPCs, based upon the empirical evidence and informed by the commitment that funds be equitably distributed across providers that demonstrate cultural humility and understanding of the various populations directly impacted by the opioid crisis. That is why we continue to oppose the release of any funds outside of an RFP process.

The stigma and discrimination faced by people who use drugs already pose considerable legal, financial and logistics barriers to opening OPC’s. The Governor of New York State must lead on overcoming these barriers, and we call upon Governor Hochul to stop dodging her responsibility by hiding behind the uncertainty of the federal government’s position. We can and must move ahead with authorization and funding to open additional overdose prevention centers across the State as an effective, evidence-based intervention to address the opioid crisis and stem the devastating increase in overdose deaths.

Our Mission

Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.

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