Opioid Settlement Funds for Overdose Prevention Sites

More than 100 organizations are calling for opioid payment dollars to fund and expand overdose prevention centers, according to a Monday letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

The letter, which includes criminal justice reform groups, AIDS service and harm reduction providers and health care organizations, notes the disapproval of the state's rejection of the state Opioid Settlement Advisory Board's recommendations to fund harm reduction efforts, including needle exchanges, fentanyl strips, inpatient treatment and safe injection sites.

The New York Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) rejected the board's recommendations to fund harm reduction through the Department of Health, choosing to keep the money for its own new harm reduction unit.

“We were encouraged by your early attention to the overdose crisis. And yet, since you took office, more than 13,000 New Yorkers have died from preventable overdoses, with the number of deaths continuing to rise, setting new and more devastating records every year,” the letter said. “We are in an unprecedented public health crisis exacerbated by a lack of accessible housing, barriers to health care, and systemic racism. Black New Yorkers have the highest rate of overdose deaths and the largest increase from 2021 to 2022, while Latino/e New Yorkers have the second highest increase in overdose deaths.”

OASAS has rejected overdose prevention centers, which are not legal under federal law. However, New York City is home to two overdose prevention centers within its jurisdiction, which were mentioned in Monday's letter.

“In two years, these locations have caused more than 1,200 times 3 potentially fatal overdoses and have played an important role in connecting people to housing, detox, counseling and other holistic services,” the letter said. “In addition, the OPCs have diverted more than two million units of spraying waste and other hazardous waste away from streets, parks and buildings.”

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