Aug 24, 2021

Letter to Governor Hochul: Authorize Overdose Prevention Centers Now

Letter to Governor Hochul: Authorize Overdose Prevention Centers Now

The Honorable Kathy Hochul

Governor of New York State

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Hochul,

Welcome to your new office - we are excited to work with your administration to promote the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers. We, the undersigned groups, urge you to use your new office to act quickly to save lives: authorize the Overdose Prevention Center pilot program now.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the already numerous inequalities impacting the most marginalized New Yorkers - the factors leading to preventable overdose deaths are no exception. Recent CDC data shows that over 93,000 people in the United States lost their lives to drug overdose in 2020 - an increase of over 21,000 people (nearly 30 percent) from 2019. 

We value the fact that overdose policy has been a deep part of your work and personal life and appreciate much-needed increases in public spending and education around treatment. But throughout the pandemic, roughly 5,100 New Yorkers statewide died of overdoses. No more. The disruption to daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic has hit people who use drugs hard, increasing isolation and despair and disconnecting people from healthcare, supportive services and community. As you turn your attention to ensuring New Yorkers get the resources they need during this pandemic and beyond, we urge you to prioritize harm reduction in your public health efforts.

Housing Works and the undersigned organizations’ harm reduction services and advocacy follows the National Harm Reduction Coalition’s principles, where harm reduction understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted continuum of behaviors. It recognizes that the realities of poverty, racism, classism, trauma, isolation, and other inequalities affect individuals' vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harms. We also believe in providing nonjudgmental, non-coercive services and resources to New Yorkers who use drugs and work to minimize harm and prevent overdose.

A proposed pilot project would authorize five existing community-based Syringe Exchange Programs (four in New York City and one in Ithaca) to expand their services to include supervised consumption services (also known as Overdose Prevention Centers). 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. This pilot would be regulated and supervised by the NYS Department of Health’s AIDS Institute with rigorous evaluation by NYU researchers.

As Governor, you have the authority to direct the Commissioner of Health to authorize this pilot program, without any action by the legislature. The NYS Constitution provides that “[t]he protection and promotion of the health of the inhabitants of the state are matters of public concern and provision therefore shall be made by the state and by such of its subdivisions”. Specifically, New York’s Public Health Law provides that the DOH Commissioner’s responsibilities include “tak[ing] cognizance of the interests of health and life of the people of the state, and of all matters pertaining thereto...investigat[ing] the causes of disease, epidemics, the sources of mortality, and the effect of localities, employments and other conditions, upon the public health [and] obtain[ing], collect[ing] and preserv[ing] such information relating to … mortality, disease and health as may be useful in the discharge of his duties or may contribute to the promotion of health or the security of life in the state.” Additionally, “whenever required by the governor, the [C]ommissioner shall make an examination concerning nuisances or questions affecting the security of life and health in any locality...” Analysis by the law firm Ropes and Gray supports the conclusion that the OPC pilot program’s research functions and benefits would fall under these executive and commissioner powers and responsibilities. 

Overdose is a wholly preventable cause of death. There are more than 100 overdose prevention centers (also known as safe or supervised injection facilities) in countries outside of the United States as of 2018. Overdose prevention centers have already been authorized in Rhode Island and we look forward to their launch soon. Here in New York, the pilots have the support of both New York City’s Mayor de Blasio and Ithaca’s Mayor Myrick. Overdose prevention is also a key point of NYS’s historic 2014 Ending the Epidemic Task Force Blueprint for ending our State’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. And as recently as 2018, Governor Cuomo himself promised advocates that he would direct Commissioner Zucker to authorize the NYS pilot program following that year’s election, but subsequently cut off all communication about the matter. In the interim, thousands more New Yorkers died of preventable drug overdose.

Former Governor Cuomo lied. Governor Hochul, we want you to honor the State’s promise. In your first days in office and ahead of August 31st’s International Overdose Awareness Day, please authorize this pilot program and help us launch the Overdose Prevention Center pilot sites in New York. Help New York State move past the stigma and fear of those in power and provide real, life-saving services to the people we care for who use drugs and deserve to live a full and healthy life.

1. Housing Works

2. Treatment Action Group

3. National Working Positive Coalition

4. Commission on the Public’s Health System

5. Community Health Action of Staten Island

6. Legal Action Center

7. St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction

8. Progressive Doctors

9. Harlem United


11. Unity Fellowship of Christ NYC

12. Exponents

13. New York State Harm Reduction Association

14. Healthcare Equity Action League of NY - HEAL NY

15. Latino Commission on AIDS

16. Hispanic Health Network

17. In Our Own Voices, Inc.

18. Westchester Citizen Therapists

19. Central Texas Harm Reduction

20. The Southern Tier AIDS Program

21. Michael Galipeau Consulting

22. Evergreen Health

23. Boom! Health

24. NC Survivors Union and Urban Survivors Union

25. Trystereo Collective/New Orleans Harm Reduction Network

26. Indiana Recovery Alliance

27. Alliance for Positive Change

28. North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition

29. Albany Damien Center

30. GMHC

31. The Life Process Program 

32. P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now)

33. Sobriety Together

34. High Impact Strategies

35. Brooklyn Community Pride Center

36. The Illuminator Collective

37. North Brooklyn Mutual Aid / NBK Essentials

38. NO OD NY

39. Minneapolis Students for Sensible Drug Policy

40. Center for Optimal Living

41. NYS Recovery PAC

42. Henry Street Settlement

43. The Levenson Foundation

44. Callen-Lorde

45. Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County

46. Students for Sensible Drug Policy

47. Bailey House

48. Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA)

49. The Campaign for NY Health

50. New York Diabetes Alliance 

51. Peer Network Of New York

52. Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY)

53. Physicians for a National Health Program - NY Metro

54. Center for Popular Democracy

55. Center for Motivation and Change 

56. New York Doctors 

57. NEXT Distro

58. Amida Care 

59. Supplies for Life

60. Samadhi Recovery Community Outreach Center

61. The Midtown South Community Council


  1. Mark Misrok 
  2. Jim Eigo 
  3. Anthony Feliciano 
  4. Yarelix Estrada 
  5. Anne Mitchell 
  6. Tracie Gardner 
  7. Chloe Winther 
  8. Diane Arneth 
  9. Joyce Rivera 
  10. Eric Sawyer 
  11. Andrew Goldstein, Assistant Professor, NYU School of Medicine 
  12. Anne Lifflander, MD, MPH 
  13. Carol Kessler, Reverend and MD 
  14. Lipi Roy, Addiction Medicine Physician, Medical Director
  15. Sophia Ebel, MD 
  16. Deborah Socolar, MPH 
  17. Muoar Deaen 
  18. Irene S Miller, LCSW 
  19. Marc Shi, Physician 
  20. Reginald Brown
  21. Ellen Tattelman, MD
  22. John Welch, LCSW 
  23. Daniel Lugassy, Physician 
  24. David C Perlman, MD 
  25. Kaitlin Abrams 
  26. Breanna Keepers, MD 
  27. Oliver Fein, MD 
  28. Chiya Ikemi 
  29. Debra Lavin, Psychologist 
  30. Halie Pratt
  31. Morgan Moore 
  32. Noa Krawczyk, Assistant Professor, NYU School of Medicine 
  33. Elizabeth Rosenthal, MD 
  34. Tulay Aksoy, Medical Director 
  35. Giliane Joseph, MD 
  36. Mariya Masyukova, MD, MS 
  37. Iman Hassan, Attending Physician
  38. Roshan Bransden, Resident, DFSM
  39. Joel Bumol, MD 
  40. Shannon McNamara, MD 
  41. Laila Khalid, Associate Professor of Medicine 
  42. Matthew Holm, MD 
  43. Lauren Shapiro, Associate Professor of Medicine
  44. Jonathan Alpert, Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  45. Tanya White-Davis 
  46. Jaquelyn Jahn, PhD, MPH 
  47. Dr. Lisa Baron 
  48. Seth Congdon, MD 
  49. Chanelle Diaz, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine 
  50. Andrea Jakubowski, MD 
  51. Dr. Andrew Tatarsky 
  52. Naomi Harris Tolson 
  53. Drew Haste 
  54. Dr. David Gottlieb 
  55. LaShondra Jones 
  56. Jyothsna Karlapalem, MD, Medical Director 
  57. Susanna Mahoney 
  58. Lyne Jean-Louis, RN 
  59. Michael DiFrancesca 
  60. Bethany Davison 
  61. Shwetha Iyer, MD 
  62. Eddie Lacend 
  63. Rachel Clark, MD 
  64. Alexander Azan, MD 
  65. Laura Landau 
  66. Richard Bradshaw 
  67. Jeremy Ziring, MD 
  68. Sophia Reinicke 
  69. Michael Galipeau 
  70. Lindsay Hayden, LMHC, Psychotherapist 
  71. David Herzberg
  72. Lauren A. Hoffman, PhD, Research Fellow 
  73. Van Asher 
  74. Lee Isaacsohn, MD 
  75. Courtney Hayes 
  76. Khristopher Decker 
  77. Caroline Hugh, MPH 
  78. George Santana 
  79. Liz Rivera Belinda Kotin, Psychiatric Nurse 
  80. Amy Colley, Addiction Psychologist 
  81. Archie Jao, MD, Medical Director 
  82. Imanni Mebane 
  83. Caragh Corsi 
  84. Louise Vincent 
  85. Dr. James Powers, DACM 
  86. William Matthews, Physician Assistant 
  87. Kapil Nayar Musaub Khan, MD
  88. Craig Sloane, LCSW 
  89. Nicholas Voyles 
  90. Melissa Bhikham, Physician 
  91. Dr. Margery Frosch, PhD 
  92. Brealyn Sellers, MD 
  93. Brooke Brailey 
  94. Paula Lamanna, LCSW, CASAC 
  95. Jesse Bennett 
  96. Pamela Jones, Clinical Psychologist 
  97. Thomas Dybek 
  98. Perry Junjulas 
  99. Joanna Starrels, Addiction Medicine Physician 
  100. Leah Danze, Psychotherapist/Art Therapist 
  101. Jessica Saeman, CASAC-T, CRPA-P 
  102. Jason Cianciotto 
  103. Jason Holloway, PsyD 
  104. Julian Ho 
  105. Rubayat Qadeer, Physician 
  106. Reilly Glasgow 
  107. Danielle C. Ompad, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology 
  108. Dr. Mary Kelly 
  109. Katherine DeGregorio, Nurse Practitioner 
  110. Elizabeth Kandall 
  111. Jasmine Myrick, Research Assistant 
  112. Cherie Byrd 
  113. Michael Morrison, LCSW 
  114. Charley Wininger, LP, LMHC 
  115. Erin Goss, MD 
  116. Anne Earle, LMSW, CARC 
  117. Ashly Jordan, PhD 
  118. Vincent Vaccaro, PhD 
  119. Ruth Riddick 
  120. JD Davids 
  121. Benjamin Riker
  122. Sumeet Singh-Tan, Physician 
  123. Trevoy Ross 
  124. Elizabeth Williams, Social Worker 
  125. Billie Tyler, BSN, RN 
  126. Benjamin Adam 
  127. Jessica Estrella 
  128. Ryan Thoresen Carson 
  129. Rory O’Brien 
  130. Morgan Geiger, RN 
  131. Sandhya Kumar, MD MPH 
  132. Elaine Seitz, Clinical Professor 
  133. Kate Sullivan 
  134. Terri Wilder 
  135. Rachel Niesen, Addiction and Mental Health Therapist 
  136. Daniel Pomerantz 
  137. Amrita Seehra, MD 
  138. Irfan Azam, MD, Homeless Healthcare Fellow 
  139. Olivia Moscicki
  140. Nancy Sanon, FNP 
  141. Aviva Epstein, RPA-C 
  142. Ben Levenson 
  143. Noah Berland, MD 
  144. Anna Guirguis, Director of Clinical Services 
  145. Steven Cobb 
  146. Rob Hofmann 
  147. Carolina Miranda, MD 
  148. Tarlise Townsend, Postdoctoral Fellow
  149. Rose Pacheco 
  150. Rex Tai, MD 
  151. Brett Wolfson-Stofko, PhD 
  152. Amy Edminster, LCSW 
  153. YuLing Koh Hsu 
  154. Carolyn Sartor, Ph.D.Associate Professor of Psychiatry
  155. Marilyn Gentile
  156. Thérèse McHale, MSW and person in recovery from opioid addiction 
  157. Karlynn Holland 
  158. Marilyn Reyes 
  159. Caroline Davidson 
  160. Marissa DeJoy 
  161. Robin Kerner, Psychologist 
  162. Jacob Tempchin, Senior Research Assistant in Alcohol Harm Prevention 
  163. Linda Moynihan 
  164. Meghan Hetfield 
  165. Sean Jones 
  166. Diane O'Cameron 
  167. Joe Ruggiero 
  168. Michael Erwin 
  169. Nancy Quinn 
  170. George Carter 
  171. Oladimeji Oki, MD 
  172. Jessica Ho, MPH 
  173. Elizabeth Copulsky 
  174. Kristine Torres-Lockhart, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine
  175. Keri Kramer 
  176. Lisa Bennett 
  177. Michael Erwin 
  178. Betty Kolod, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Environmental Medicine and Public Health 
  179. Maureen Miller, MD, MPH 
  180. Larissa J. Maier, PhD 
  181. Ashley Castillo 
  182. Patrick Haenlein, MD 
  183. Rhonda Usyk 
  184. Janice Lynch 
  185. Danielle Williams 
  186. Judy Moffitt 
  187. Monica Pugliese 
  188. Jen Cutting 
  189. David McNamara 
  190. Brendan Jacka 
  191. John Mudd 
  192. Sincere Amor Boykin 
  193. Sandra France
  194. Liz Whipple
  195. Winn Periyasamy

cc: NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker

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.

Donate Now