(New York, NY) - For International Overdose Awareness Day, Housing Works Demands Governor Hochul to Authorize Overdose Prevention Centers in New York State
On August 31, 2023, International Overdose Awareness Day, Housing Works staff and allies are convening a march and protest at Foley Square to honor those who we’ve lost to overdose, and to demand that Governor Hochul immediately authorize overdose prevention centers statewide. Following the demonstration, a civil disobedience will take place, where at least 18 activists will be arrested, representing the average of 18 New Yorkers who die every day by preventable overdose.
Overdose prevention centers have proven to be a crucial and lifesaving resource for individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Despite their demonstrated effectiveness, Governor Hochul has declined authorizing overdose prevention centers. Gov. Hochul has also rejected the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board's recommendation that the state provide support for overdose prevention centers using its settlement funds.
Over 13,000 people have died from preventable overdoses since Governor Hochul has been in office. Advocates collectively call on Governor Hochul and the Legislature to take action to protect and expand life-saving overdose prevention centers in New York State.
Ingrid Floyd, Executive Director of Iris House, said: “Iris House is dedicated to helping to combat the rise in overdose deaths in NYC. High-poverty neighborhoods have the highest rates of overdose and other health disparities. We must end the stigma and provide families and communities with the resources they need to prevent deaths and receive culturally competent care and treatment. NYS must do more to prevent unnecessary deaths caused by overdose."
Mario Vergara, Overdose Prevention Counselor at Housing Works, said: “The failure of the war on drugs has taught us addiction is a complex and multi-faceted issue. It can’t be solved through criminalization, marginalization, and other punitive measures. OPCs offer compassion, understanding, and a chance for rehabilitation by addressing the root causes of addiction and paving the way for meaningful change. We demand action from Governor Hochul to prioritize the health and well-being of our community members and authorize overdose prevention centers.”
Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, said: “Overdose prevention centers operate successfully worldwide and have been proven essential in reducing preventable overdose deaths while increasing access to healthcare services and substance use treatment. Inaction from Governor Hochul will continue to cost people their lives. It’s time for Hochul to authorize the NYS Health Commissioner to issue a letter to the New York City Department of Health and authorize a limited number of overdose prevention centers to operate under DOHMH authority on a pilot basis.”
Linda Rosenthal (D/WF - Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Housing and Former Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse said: “The overdose crisis continues unabated; in fact, it is intensifying as veterinary tranquilizer xylazine is increasingly found in fentanyl-tainted drugs. While the theme of this year’s International Overdose Awareness Day is ‘recognizing those people who go unseen’ so many of us actually do ‘see’ those with substance use disorder, and we support using proven harm-reduction tools in the growing crisis. As the longtime Assembly sponsor of the Safer Consumption Services Act, I am disgusted that New York State, often a leader on health-related matters, has not stepped up to establish overdose prevention centers (OPC) when we know they save lives. Instead of waiting for results of more studies that will prove what countries around the world with OPCs already know, we need to stop dawdling and implement a strategy of opening new OPCs and start saving lives,” said Assemblymember
Harry Cullen, organizer with PAIN, said: “New York stands to receive over $1.6 billion from opioid settlements. This money was secured due to the loss of life, so it must fund services proven to save lives. Kathy Hochul needs to authorize and fund Overdose Prevention Centers across the state to keep New Yorkers safe.”
Dana Beal, of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) User Caucus, said: "As the group focused on improving substance use treatment, ACT UP supports overdose prevention centers as the most direct route to let people know about new treatments who need them the most."
About Housing Works
For 30 years, Housing Works has fueled the fight to end HIV and homelessness. Our Thrift Shops and signature events directly benefit our trailblazing work in grassroots activism, healthcare, and housing. Housing Works led the way during the height of the AIDS crisis in New York City and continues to lead advocacy efforts across the country in support of social justice.