Year after year after year, Housing Works has called upon Governor Cuomo, New York State and the Federal Government to increase funding for harm reduction services and act immediately to open overdose prevention centers to end the pervasive and horrific overdose crisis that unnecessarily kills our loved ones, year after year after year.
Now, according to a recent CDC report, over 93,000 people in the United States lost their lives to drug overdose during 2020, a nearly 30% increase over the previous year. In New York State, an estimated 3,000 people died of overdose, indicating a similar increase.
The COVID-19 pandemic surely exacerbated individual isolation and despair, made access to harm reduction more difficult, and made safe use more challenging to people across the country, but the underlying causes of the overdose crisis remain painfully the same -- lack of financial support for harm reduction and community health services, a lethal cultural insistence on stigmatizing and shaming people who use drugs, and a refusal to implement overdose prevention centers, a proven intervention that has saved tens of thousands of lives around the world.
Once again, Housing Works, along with our allies in harm reduction and overdose prevention, wish to remind Governor Cuomo, the New York State government and the Federal government that overdose is a wholly preventable cause of death. Medically assisted treatment (MAT), harm reduction, syringe exchange programs, availability of fentanyl testing strips, naloxone and, we believe, overdose prevention centers, must be readily available, well-funded, adequately promoted and fully accessible in order to end this crisis once and for all.
Finally, we call on Governor Cuomo for what we hope is the last time to stop standing in the way and stop willfully blocking the opening of overdose prevention centers in a pilot program for New York City and Ithaca, NY, that has already been approved by both municipalities. We applaud the state of Rhode Island for being first in the nation to open overdose prevention centers and stand in solidarity with other states working and struggling to do so.
We hope that this year we can finally step 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.