Press Statements

On International Overdose Awareness Day, Lawmakers and Community Members Demand Action on New York’s Preventable Overdose Crisis

August 31, 2021


Tuesday, August 31, 2021


Jasmine Budnella,, 720480-5262

Mariah McGough,, 203-470-9979


New Yorkers Joined People Across the Globe Today to Honor Those Lost to Preventable Overdose By Demanding Action 

See VOCAL-NY’s Drug Policy Roadmap for Governor Hochul’s first 45 Days in Office

NEW YORK — Today, community members and lawmakers held press conferences in the Bronx, Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse calling on Governor Hochul to honor those lost to preventable overdose by taking action in her first 45 days of office. Speakers highlighted that they share the pain the Governor has felt losing a loved one to a preventable overdose, and called on her to urgently sign the Overdose Prevention Package that lawmakers passed this legislative session. They urged her to lead on course-correcting Cuomo’s decade of harm by authorizing the long stalled Overdose Prevention Center pilots, and prioritizing life-saving evidence-based solutions. 

“I am tired of watching my own people die from preventable overdose. We need leadership that will face this crisis head on, approach it with compassion, and implement evidence-based solutions that save lives,” said Ivette Chavez Gonzalez, Buffalo Leader in VOCAL-NY’s Users Union. “We are hopeful that Governor Hochul, given her Buffalo roots, will rise to the challenge for us here in Western New York by signing this legislation and approving the OPC pilots once and for all.”

“For 10 years, Andrew Cuomo treated Black and Brown communities as expendable—but now, Governor Hochul has the opportunity to reverse the trauma and harm of the Cuomo administration by signing the Overdose Prevention Package bills and approve the long-overdue Overdose Prevention Center pilots for our communities,” stated Terrell Jones, Downstate Leader in VOCAL-NY’s Users Union.

“Overdose Awareness Day reminds us of the many lives lost and of the progress we’ve made and still must make,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried. “We can take important steps forward with expanded medication assisted treatment, overdose prevention centers, and my bill with Senate Health Chair Rivera decriminalizing syringe possession. I urge Governor Hochul to act promptly on this life-saving bill package.”

“After the deadliest year for overdose deaths on record, Gov. Kathy Hochul has the power to end this crisis,” said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher. “Signing the package of bills we passed in the legislature, finally green-lighting Overdose Prevention Center pilots, declaring a Public Health Emergency and appointing health commissioners with deep experience in harm reduction can save lives, create a safer New York for all, and finally close the book on the racist War on Drugs that’s caused so much suffering. We have the tools. Now we just need the will.”

“New York State is in the throes of an overdose epidemic, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 5,199 of our fellow New Yorkers died from a preventable overdose, more than in any year in history,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “If we fail to act now, it is likely that 2022 and into the future will be just as deadly. Decades of research has proven that harm reduction strategies save lives – the answer to solving this crisis is right in front of us. On Overdose Awareness Day, we can honor all of those lost to overdose in New York State by enacting the Overdose Prevention Package, including my two bills ending prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment drugs for all New Yorkers and establishing a medication-assisted treatment program in prisons and jails statewide, as well as legislation that will finally decriminalize syringes. Together, this package will finally provide those battling an addiction the healthcare services they need and deserve.”

“On this International Overdose Awareness Day, we should not only solemnly remember those who died due to an overdose, but continue working towards the implementation of life saving measures that will help our State overcome this terrible crisis,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the New York Senate Health Committee. “I urge Governor Hochul to sign into law my bill to decriminalize syringes and to swiftly implement overdose prevention centers, which have been proven to be an effective tool in preventing overdose deaths, stopping the spread of disease, and providing a path to recovery. I stand in solidarity with VOCAL-NY and all other partners in the harm reduction community and thank each of their members for working to save lives.”

“This International Overdose Awareness Day is a somber reminder of the skyrocketing number of lives lost,” said Senator Peter Harckham. “The enormity of the crisis requires timely action, and enacting the Overdose Prevention Package of legislation into law has to be a priority. Until the sorrowful statistics surrounding Substance Use Disorder finally disappear, we will continue increasing our efforts to safeguard and care for our loved ones and neighbors. They are counting on us to do so.”

“As our society has been focused on addressing the impacts of COVID-19 these past 18 months, the overdose crisis has continued to grow dramatically, taking over 94,000 lives last year,” said Assemblymember John T. McDonald III. “The pandemic has fueled an already existing crisis. This past legislative session I joined my colleagues to pass critical legislation to pave the way for much-needed expanded access to prevention, treatment, and recovery resources. These legislative priorities, in concert with the proposed Overdose Prevention Center pilot project that has been committed to by the previous administration, will provide the opportunity to make a critical impact in preventing overdoses and focus the spotlight on opioid use disorders as health care issues and not as criminal justice issues.”

“Governor Kathy Hochul can make a positive impact on the lives of incarcerated New Yorkers right away by ensuring Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is offered inside all NYS prisons and jails, and removing prior authorization for MAT for all New Yorkers on Medicaid,” said Sam Fiein, Albany County Legislature. “Let’s come together on International Overdose Awareness Day and show New York that we can take action to improve access to lifesaving treatments.”

“The number of overdoses in our community is a severe problem that many like to push under the rug,” said Councilman Owusu Anane. “However it still exists, and if we don’t talk about it, we can’t address it. So I commend everyone here today who is not only having a conversation about this issue but calling for action. We need a new era of healing and we are calling on the legislature to pass and the Governor to sign the Overdose Prevention Package.

“The toll that the crisis of overdose and addiction has inflicted on New Yorkers is incalculable, and it was only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator John W. Mannion. “On International Overdose Awareness Day we reflect on those we have lost but also recommit ourselves to delivering the proven policies, resources, and programs that we know can save lives. I am hopeful that the new administration will make the addiction crisis a priority and I commend VOCAL-NY for its continued advocacy on this important issue.”

“We all know someone who has been touched by the tragedy of addiction and overdose. Last year alone, New York lost more than 5,000 lives to preventable overdose deaths,” said Senator Rachel May. On International Overdose Awareness Day, I urge Governor Hochul to prioritize overdose prevention and improve treatment options for people across the state by signing the Overdose Prevention Package.”  

“For years, we have lost countless friends, families, and loved ones as the opioid epidemic continues to attack the people of our communities,” said Assemblymember Demond Meeks. “The economic hardships and isolation brought on by the pandemic have only worsened a long-standing issue in countless neighborhoods across New York. It takes strong leadership from our elected officials to present bold and meaningful solutions. It’s equally important that we are intentional about approaching these issues as a health crisis, not a criminal one. The Overdose Prevention Package is an essential step towards connecting struggling members of our community to critical support and finally do right by our families.”

“On International Overdose Awareness Day, it is important to remember that overdoses claim more lives than suicide, homicide, and car accidents combined, said Senator Jeremy Cooney. “While this heartbreaking, and the pandemic exacerbated already existing challenges, we also have the power to save lives through this package of legislation. Our friends and neighbors who struggle with addiction need services, health care, compassion, love, and an opportunity to heal.” 

“I am grateful to VOCAL NY for their tireless advocacy helping to pass the Overdose Prevention Package of bills in the state legislature,” said Assemblymember Sarah Clark. “It is vital that the Governor signs them as soon as possible to ensure that our state does its part in preventing more unnecessary deaths due to overdose. Unfortunately, we have also seen the heartbreaking toll that the pandemic has had on communities already struggling with substance abuse. This is now beyond a public health and safety issue, it’s an equity issue for socioeconomically underserved communities statewide. No family should have to grieve the loss of a loved one due to a preventable overdose. Today, as we honor the lives lost, we renew our commitment to implementing life-saving measures, and understand that if we are ever going to make a difference, it’s time for bold ideas and a new approach.”


Recent News

Scroll to Top
Skip to content