January 8, 2024
CONTACT: Mariah McGough, firstname.lastname@example.org
OVER 110 ORGANIZATIONS SEND LETTER TO GOV. HOCHUL CALLING FOR EXPANSION OF OVERDOSE PREVENTION CENTERS AND FUNDING WITH OPIOID SETTLEMENT DOLLARS
See Letter and Signees Here; Overdose Prevention Centers Have Saved More Than 1,300 Lives Since Opening in 2021
NEW YORK — Today, as covered in Politico’s New York Playbook, over 100 criminal justice reform organizations, AIDS service and harm reduction providers, and healthcare organizations delivered a letter to Governor Hochul calling for opioid settlement dollars to fund and expand overdose prevention centers, the NYC-based centers that have saved lives more than 1,300 times. Late last month, Governor Hochul rejected the Opioid Settlement Advisory Board’s recommendation to do so – the second year in a row for her to go against the state law-appointed advisory board.
Read the full letter here, including this excerpt:
“Right now, the only OPCs in the country are in New York City, and so the Advisory Board made their recommendation recognizing that communities outside of New York City deserve the opportunity to benefit from the range of services provided by OPCs. The recommendation was intentionally designed to allow the state of New York to conduct an academic study of OPCs, something the federal government itself is already doing.
As people continue to lose their lives and families continue to bury their loved ones at astounding rates, there is a real opportunity for the state to be a national leader in implementing a bold vision for addressing this epidemic. The Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board has attempted to do just that with their 2023 report. It is time for you, Governor Hochul, to do the same.”
Read statements from organizations below:
“I live in Buffalo, Governor Hochul’s hometown, and it is infuriating that she would reject the recommendations of the Opioid Settlement Board to use settlement funds to expand Overdose Prevention Centers, all while overdose deaths reach record-breaking heights here and across the state,” said Ivette Chavez-Gonzalez, Users Union Leader at VOCAL-NY. “New York needs to adopt innovative, evidence-based strategies in order to address the evolving overdose crisis, and these recommendations urged Hochul to do just that. Her rejection means more families across the state will continue to bury their loved ones, all while the governor plays political finger-pointing. We refuse to allow another year to be filled with the same political rhetoric that refuses to meet the needs of New Yorkers during this moment in the overdose crisis.”
“In her rejection of her own Opioid Settlement Board’s recommendation, Governor Hochul undermines New York’s ability to address the overdose crisis in holistic, evidence-based, and human-centered ways,” said Megan French-Marcelin, Senior Director of NYS Policy at Legal Action Center. “Overdose prevention centers unquestionably save lives; they also ensure people can access food, shelter, and care. New Yorkers, particularly Black and brown New Yorkers, are dying from overdose at ever-growing rates. We are undoubtedly amid a public health emergency. Our state government should be deploying every measure possible to save lives; instead, it seems, they are putting politics before people.”
“Once again, Governor Hochul’s rejection of OPCs puts her at odds with her own Board, past statements of her own commissioners, and healthcare workers on the frontlines saving lives,” said Toni Smith, NY State Director, Drug Policy Alliance. “Over 13,000 New Yorkers have died from a preventable overdose death under the Governor’s watch. The people dying at the highest rates – Black and Latine New Yorkers – are those most served by New York’s two OPCs, according to OnPoint NYC’s newly released report on the first year of operation. While these OPCs have operated without federal interference for two years, and Rhode Island is preparing to open state authorized and funded OPCs, Governor Hochul continues to incorrectly claim she can’t authorize OPCs. As grieving New Yorkers look for solutions to our overdose crisis, the Governor serves the same excuses.”
In two years, these overdose prevention centers have intervened in potentially fatal overdoses more than 1,300 times and have been instrumental in connecting people to housing, detox and treatment, counseling, and other holistic services. In addition, the OPCs have diverted more than two million units of syringe litter and other hazardous waste away from streets, parks and buildings.
New York is 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.