(New York, NY) - Housing Works and other harm reduction counselors and advocates held a demonstration at 12:00PM August 9, at Foley Square in Manhattan to denounce US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Damian Williams' threat of enforcement actions against New York City's overdose prevention centers, as reported by the New York Times.
Each year, we lose an estimated of 6,000 New Yorkers to preventable overdose. Meanwhile, since opening in December 2021, OnPoint has prevented over 1,000 overdoses at its overdose prevention centers. It’s clear we need a response to the overdose crisis that meets people where they are, offering harm reduction and preventative health services, not punitive measures. Law enforcement officials like the U.S. Attorney can’t solve a public health crisis, especially without the support of our Governor.
Governor Hochul’s inaction on authorizing and funding overdose prevention centers has put our city in a precarious position in which we must fear that a critical health service may be shut down and those who rely on its services be left to fend for themselves.
We call on Governor Hochul to authorize the opening of more overdose prevention centers to ensure these facilities are protected against legal intervention and to continue to save the lives of our fellow New Yorkers.
Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, said: “Intervention by the US Attorney to shut down overdose prevention centers will cost people their lives. I would think that neither U.S. Attorney Damian Williams nor Gov. Kathy Hochul want those deaths on their consciences. Gov. Hochul could end this threat immediately by authorizing NYS Health Commissioner McDonald to issue a letter to the New York City Department of Health, under the regulations he oversees, authorizing a limited number of overdose prevention Centers to operate under DOHMH authority on a pilot basis.”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, said: "Overdose Prevention Centers save lives. They enable not only direct intervention but additional harm reduction services to support New Yorkers in greatest need. The centers and dedicated staff offer a level of care and lifesaving results that cannot be ignored, discounted, or impeded. It's past time for the Governor and state leaders to move forward with the authorization and funding needed to protect and expand the work being done. These OPCs are saving lives, and we need them to be in operation at all hours, in collaboration with communities, to intervene in preventable tragedies."
Alexis Pleus, Executive Director of TruthPharm, said: “Moms support overdose prevention centers. Opioid settlement funds were gained by New York State by the death of our loved ones, and New York State has a responsibility to use these funds in a responsible and immediate way to keep our kids alive. Overdose prevention centers do that.”
Harry Cullen, organizer with PAIN, said: “Organizations like PAIN fought against corrupt pharma companies like Purdue to claw back the billions they made off overdose and death. It’s within Kathy Hochul’s power to authorize and fully fund OPCs across the state. Every day wasted means more dead New Yorkers.”