NYC Public Advocate Calls For State Support Of Overdose Prevention Centers After Tour

February 16th, 2023

Press Release

After touring an Overdose Prevention Center in East Harlem Wednesday and seeing other wraparound services provided on-site, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called on the Governor to prioritize allocating funds for the operation and expansion of these lifesaving centers. Watch video of his comments after the tour here.

Overdose Prevention Centers allow people with substance use disorders to safely use drugs under medical supervision, while receiving services such as medical care, mental health treatment, and more. There are currently two locations in New York City, both run by OnPointNYC, with the second located in Washington Heights. Since the first center opened in December of 2021, staff have intervened to save lives in over 700 overdoses. They are currently doing all of this without critical state support.

“Overdose Prevention Centers and the harm reduction model that they practice are saving lives, and supporting communities with daily, demonstrable impact,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “Misconceptions and mischaracterizations about the role, impact, and operation of overdose prevention centers are pervasive, as they conflate these spaces and services with other treatment options. If everyone could see what I witnessed there, the level of care, humanity, community, and lifesaving results that emanate from these centers, they would join me in saying that we need more hours, more centers, and more funding to support their efforts.”

Last year, New York State’s Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board proposed using the funds procured through legal settlements with pharmaceutical companies that have been accused of perpetuating the opioid crisis. About $129 million of the $2 billion New York has received through these settlements will be allocated throughout the state this fiscal year to address issues related to opioid use, but that allocation does not include support for Overdose Prevention Centers.

The Public Advocate is calling for the state to provide $5 million in the coming budget to help support the services of the two existing centers and enable them to operate 24 hours a day. He also called for Governor Hochul to authorize the centers.

New York would not be the only jurisdiction allocating funds to OPCs. Rhode Island’s Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee recently approved and allocated $2.5 million from settlements with pharmaceutical companies for a planned overdose prevention center in Providence.

The tragedy of overdose continues to grow nationwide and in New York. There were over 106,000 overdose deaths nationally in 2021, an increase of about 15,000 over the previous year. In New York, there were 5,841 deaths in 2021, up from 4,965 in 2020.

"Supervised consumption saves lives. Period. It is a life-saving medical intervention that truly meets people where they are, extend to them the grace and compassion they deserve and give them the tools they need to stay alive. I want to thank Public Advocate Williams for his leadership in calling on the state to utilize resources from its opioid settlement fund to support OPCs and fulfill the fund’s intended objective – to support people who are impacted the most by the opioid crisis," said Sam Rivera, Executive Director of OnPoint NYC.

“Overdose prevention centers are evidence-based, proven health interventions, utilized in almost 200 countries around the world, to save lives. With the two overdose prevention centers here in New York City, we were able to reverse 633 overdoses in their first year of operation. But two overdose prevention centers, in just two neighborhoods, that are privately funded, is not enough. We need New York state lawmakers to step in to authorize and overdose prevention centers and fund them with opioid settlement funds. The purpose of that funding is to support people who are struggling with opioid use or at risk of overdose death. And the first line of support is to keep people alive,” said Toni Smith, NY State Director, Drug Policy Alliance.

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