Racial Justice and Overdose – Activists demand NYC Mayor to release report on Safer Consumption Spaces
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New York, NY – At the steps of City hall on April 26, 2018, elected officials, Black and Latinx community leaders, civil rights and legal advocates, medical professionals, housing activists, harm reduction advocates, and drug policy reformers demanded the Mayor release the feasibility study on Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) that was due last fall.
Speakers illustrated the many intersections of the overdose crisis and the urgent need to implement SCS throughout New York City—especially in the communities that have historically borne the double trauma of high overdose deaths and devastating criminalization due to the War on Drugs scorched earth approach.
In the midst of the opioid crisis, lawmakers and the media have increasingly highlighted strategies that treat drug use as a public health issue. But despite the rhetoric of a “gentler war on drugs,” certain communities perceived to be newly struggling with overdose have often been prioritized over communities that have long grappled with overdose—especially communities in the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn that faced some of the harshest crackdowns under draconian drug war tactics.
Speakers called on the Mayor to recognize the disproportionate toll of overdoses in communities of color and demand an equitable distribution of public health resources to help all people in need—first and foremost safer consumption spaces, which have been proven to save lives.
The Mayor must take action on this issue to prevent more deaths after thousands have already passed away: “At a time where addressing the overdose epidemic requires innovation and compassion, Mayor Bill De Blasio and and First Lady Chirlane McCray have the audacity to look New Yorkers in the face and tell them that their community’s lives are only worth saving if they have the patience and stamina to sit through the muddled spiral of a hotline number. We called the prized 1-888-NYC-WELL number and were told naloxone would cost $136 without insurance, and were directed to call 311 to find where free naloxone was available. During another call, because the person calling uses heroin, the caller was told they would have to be assessed by a clinic to ‘see’ if they are eligible to receive naloxone. Both the Mayor and the First Lady have refused to take a position on the well-researched, public health intervention of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS)—which are guaranteed to save lives from overdose.
By promoting a hotline in which callers experience the humiliating process of outing oneself to an operator when needing naloxone, the First Lady, titled chief stigma buster by the Mayor, is doing all but busting stigma. Even more, the Mayor, during a town hall in the Bronx (the borough hardest hit by the overdose crisis), had the nerve to have the community repeat the 1-888 number three times while simultaneously disregarding the evidence of SCS.
It is the administration’s ignorance of SCS public health function, and politics, that is keeping this intervention at bay. The Mayor and First Lady do not recognize that people who use drugs need more compassion and services than an operator or a pharmacy (that may or may not have naloxone). If the administration doesn’t act to implement SCS, they are responsible for the lives lost in this crisis.”
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