Release - Advocates Rally to Demand Urgent Action from State Outside Final Tour Stop of NYS Senate Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention Joint-Task Force

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 15, 2019

Contact:

Yan Snead, ysnead@katalcenter.org | (518) 360-1534

 

Follow on Social Media @KatalCenter | #EndOverdoseNY

 

Advocates Rally to Demand Urgent Action from State Outside Final Tour Stop of NYS Senate Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention Joint-Task Force

 

The Joint-Task Force’s Leadership Signals the Senate’s Commitment to Prioritizing Evidence-Based Legislation to Address the Overdose Crisis

 

Katal Leader Ron Anderson addressing rally participants about the importance of treatment for substance use disorders at the Legislative Office Building.

 

 Albany, NY: Service providers and advocates from across the Capital Region and New York State held a press conference prior to the NYS Senate Opioids, Addiction & Overdose Prevention Joint-Task Force’s final stop on the statewide tour. Speakers urged the Task Force to move away from the criminalization-focused previous Republican Heroin Task Force, and to use the statewide tour to recognize the evidence-based, lifesaving interventions yet to be implemented in New York State, including rapidly increased funding for harm reduction services across the State- specifically in rural areas, universal access to medication-assisted treatment, increased supportive housing, implementation of safer consumption spaces, and the decriminalization of public health tools. Speakers highlighted their frustrations about the Governor’s inaction on implementing these lifesaving interventions, underfunding the state’s response to this devastating crisis, and the administration’s lack of compassion for their loved ones.

“Someone dies from a preventable overdose every six hours in our state. The Senate Task Force has a real opportunity to immediately address the crisis of death and despair we’ve been facing for far too long and at far too great a cost. The time is now to show the rest of the U.S. how New Yorkers refuse to let one another die and suffer, and how we show up for our own. We’re known for our innovative spirit and brash boldness, and one more year of increased enforcement and token investments in treatment aren’t that,” said Keith Brown of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, one of the event’s organizers. Read Brown's testimony presented to the NY Senate Task Force, at this link.

Dionna King of the Drug Policy Alliance added, “The New York State Senate has taken on the burdensome task of traveling across the state to learn from those working to end the overdose crisis. Now it's time to fight for critical overdose prevention and harm reduction policy. New York needs to move forward with overdose prevention sites. New York must expand access to MAT. New York must end the drug war.”

Families impacted by the overdose crisis have been at the forefront of demanding change during the Task Force tour. Carol Katz Beyer, President and Founder, Families for Sensitive Drug Policy said, “The grassroots organizations that have taken up this fight exist out of necessity because our policies and laws are abysmally failing to deliver a standard of care that serves our affected families.”

"Pitting the needs of persons in need of MAT against those of nursing home patients and others in need within the healthcare system is a red herring when the insurance industry and big Pharma continue to reap bloated profits from the system.

Trimming the fat and waste from the funds that go to corporations whose CEO's make as much as $100,000 per day will allow the needs of all the vulnerable persons in the healthcare system to be met," added Steven Rabinowitz, Vice-President, Families for Sensible Drug Policy.

Alexis Pleus of Truth Pharm added, "As the Task Force has made its way around the state, the message from constituents, advocates and front line workers has been clear, we must move the care of people who use drugs away from law enforcement and towards care through a Harm Reduction approach which is proven to save lives. Had we done this years ago, we wouldn't be in the middle of an epidemic now, I wouldn't be grieving the loss of my son, nor consoling hundreds of families who have lost their loved ones. The time for change is far overdue, now is a time for action."

 

Keith Brown addresses rally participants impacted by the overdose crisis, including members of Truth Pharm, VOCAL-NY, Friends of Recovery-NY, and Katal.

 

One life-saving intervention under consideration by the Task Force is the establishment of Overdose Prevention Centers/Safer Consumption Spaces. Of the emergency need for these spaces, Ken Robinson of Research for a Safer New York said, “As many as 10 people die of opioid overdose in New York State every day. Overdose Prevention Centers (also known as Supervised Injection Facilities and Safe Consumption Sites) are an evidence-based best practice that will save lives. New York State currently has one of the most extensive syringe exchange networks in the world. Sadly, under current law, when we give clients clean syringes, we have to send them out the door to consume their drugs, where they often inject them in parks, restrooms, alleyways, and other public spaces. All we are asking for is one small, but extremely vital, additional step -- that we be allowed to offer clients a clean, safe place to inject their drugs under the watchful eye of staff trained to intervene with naloxone in the case of overdose. This will undoubtedly save lives.”

Katal Leader, Ron Anderson, said: "As a father of young children, I am grateful that I have an opportunity to share my experiences to those that can and MUST make the necessary decisions to save lives. It is past time that I and the many others that fear persecution and cringe from the stigma of substance use, homelessness, and depression, get this opportunity. Yet, we are here not for the moment but to demand a change in policies that will save lives!"

"From the first stop in the Bronx to the last stop in my home city, and every stop in between, End Overdose NY has shown how painfully united we are in the struggle to end this crisis and the demands of policy to get us there," said Ash Radliff, Community Leader from VOCAL-NY's Albany Chapter. "We are grateful this Task Force has taken this issue seriously, and we need every elected to follow their lead and move with urgency to implement evidence-based solutions. This is not a joke to us--I know I am living proof and am damn tired of losing my loved ones."

 

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