New York, NY – On International Overdose Awareness Day -August 31, 2023- activists with Housing Works organized a demonstration and civil disobedience outside U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams’ office in Manhattan, demanding Governor Kathy Hochul to authorize overdose prevention centers, to protect and expand this lifesaving resource for New Yorkers.
New York’s overdose crisis is at an all-time high, driven by a contaminated supply, COVID-19, stigma, racism, and the War on Drugs. The decades long drug war has been a war on Black, brown, and poor New Yorkers. Criminalization has fed stigma and isolation, driving people who use drugs away from support and towards the criminal legal system.
It is clear punitive responses to drug use has not ended overdose, and in fact has exacerbated the issue. In New York State, we are losing 18 New Yorkers a day from preventable overdose – over 6,000 people each year. In NYC, this rate grows to a life lost every 3 hours.
This insurmountable loss is preventable. In just 18 months of operation, OnPoint’s two Overdose Prevention Centers have prevented over 1,000 overdose deaths. It’s clear we need a response to the overdose crisis that meets people where they are, offering harm reduction and preventative health services.
On August 8, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, gave a statement to the New York Times, threatening to take legal action against overdose prevention centers if they are not soon authorized by the Governor. While we condemn his statements, it is Governor Hochul’s inaction on authorizing and funding overdose prevention centers that has put our city in a precarious position in which we must fear that a critical health service may be shut down and those who rely on its services be left to fend for themselves.
Law enforcement officials like the U.S. Attorney can’t solve a public health crisis, especially without the support of our Governor. We call on Governor Kathy Hochul to authorize overdose prevention centers to ensure these facilities are protected against legal intervention and to continue to save the lives of our fellow New Yorkers.
On International Overdose Awareness Day, activists gathered at Foley Square for a rally, then marched to the US Attorney Williams’ office for a demonstration to demand lifesaving, evidence-based OPCs are authorized and supported by our elected officials, not criminalization.
© Erik McGregor – firstname.lastname@example.org – 917-225-8963