More than 100 organizations are calling for opioid settlement dollars to fund and expand overdose prevention centers, according to a letter dated Monday sent to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Made up of criminal justice reform groups, AIDS service and harm reduction providers and health care organizations, the letter states the disapproval of the state’s rejection of recommendations from the state Opioid Settlement Advisory Board to fund harm reduction efforts including needle exchanges, fentanyl strips, in-patient treatment and safe injection sites.
The New York Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) rejected the board’s recommendations to fund harm reduction via the Department of Health, opting instead to keep the money for its own new harm reduction unit.
“We were encouraged by your early attention to the overdose crisis. And yet, since you assumed office, over 13,000 New Yorkers have died from a preventable overdose, with deaths continuing to trend upward, setting new and more devastating records each year,” the letter reads. “We are in an unprecedented public health crisis that is compounded by a lack of accessible housing, barriers to healthcare, and structural racism. Black New Yorkers have the highest rate of overdose death and the largest increase from 2021 to 2022, with Latino/e New Yorkers having the second highest overdose death increase.”
OASAS rejected overdose prevention centers, which are not legal under federal law, however, New York City hosts two overdose prevention centers within its jurisdiction, which are mentioned in Monday’s letter.
“In two years, these sites have intervened in potentially fatal overdoses more than 1,200 times 3 and have been instrumental in connecting people to housing, detox, counseling, and other holistic services,” the letter reads. “In addition, the OPCs have diverted more than two million units of syringe litter and other hazardous waste away from streets, parks and buildings.”