June 11, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 10 2021
Jasmine Budnella, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mariah McGough, email@example.com
AFTER A FIGHT SPANNING OVER A DECADE, ASSEMBLY PASSES LIFE-SAVING BILL TO DECRIMINALIZE AND EXPAND ACCESS TO SYRINGES IN NEW YORK
See Statement on Monday’s Senate Vote From VOCAL-NY Leader, Ivette Chavez-Gonzalez, Who Has Been Incarcerated Multiple Times for Syringe Possession
ALBANY, N.Y. — Today, the New York State Assembly passed S2523/A868, legislation to decriminalize syringes and expand access in pharmacies by removing purchasing limits. The bill prioritizes evidence-based solutions, rather than further stigmatizing the surging overdose crisis and fragile drug user health infrastructure. In 2015, Assemblymember Gottfried and Senator Rivera introduced this lifesaving bill to close legal loopholes and build on previous prevention syringe access work that began with Governor Pataki. For six years, it has remained stagnant in the Senate, and has stalled out year after year on the Assembly floor.
Following the passage of S2523/A868 on the Assembly floor, VOCAL-NY release the following statement, attributable to Asia Betancourt, leader in VOCAL-NY’s Users Union:
“At long last this day has come and—for the first time in a very long time—I feel like the legislature is showing us that they believe people who use drugs deserve compassion and respect, and not criminalization. Passing this bill will save countless lives, and it is a much needed step in the right direction. Governor Cuomo must sign this bill immediately. And, we will keep fighting for access to other vital harm reduction tools like Overdose Prevention Centers.”
For decades, the New York State Department of Health has funded syringe service programs to provide people who use drugs with sterile syringes and supplies — but the state still has a law that makes possession of a syringe illegal and the penalty can be up to a year in jail. Governor Cuomo exacerbated the barriers created by the current law. During the height of the pandemic, Cuomo cut funding to syringe service programs and created a syringe shortage that resulted in HIV clusters and surging hepatitis C rates across the state. Black New Yorkers in particular face significant overdose risk, and are disproportionately criminalized due to institutional racism and the state’s drug laws. Decriminalizing and expanding access to syringes by removing the limit at pharmacies is a vital public health strategy that will save countless lives.
Syringe decriminalization and expansion bill was proposed in the New York State’s Blueprint to End the AIDS Epidemic, and listed as a recommendation in the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addictions, and Overdose Prevention Report. Yet the bill remained untouched, while related bills have advanced. Today is a historic win for the health and dignity of New Yorkers.