On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, dozens of advocates from the EndOverdoseNY coalition and family members who have lost loved ones to overdose gathered in New York’s Times Square for the launch of a series of digital billboards urging New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to "Give the Gift of Life" by authorizing overdose prevention centers.
“Governor Cuomo has run out of time and valid reasons to hold up implementing a public health tool that is crucial for saving lives amid the overdose crisis. This is not a moment for political posturing or calculus – the only thing that keeps adding up while he fails to act is the number of lives lost unnecessarily.” - Kassandra Frederique, NY State Director at Drug Policy Alliance and member of the EndOverdoseNY coalition.
The billboard takeover comes on the heels of a direct action the previous day in which drug policy activists, artist and activist Nan Goldin, and P.A.I.N. Sackler set up a pop-up safer consumption space and held a speak-out in front of Cuomo’s office in Manhattan.
Overdose deaths have skyrocketed across New York State from 944 in 2005 to 3,638 in 2016. Today, a New Yorker dies every 6 hours of a preventable overdose.
The EndOverdoseNY coalition is calling on Governor Cuomo take action to establish Overdose Prevention Centers, a proven evidence-based public health intervention to prevent overdose deaths. Internationally, there are more than 100 safer consumption spaces in 66 cities across the world and not a single person has died of an overdose in one of these facilities.
Earlier this year, activists pushed Mayor de Blasio to support piloting four NYC Overdose Prevention Centers. In 2016, Ithaca Mayor Myrick introduced the Ithaca Plan, which also voiced support for a overdose prevention center pilot. For the last six months, the two cities have been waiting for New York State’s Department of Health to approve the pilot. While Governor Cuomo signaled his support for the centers during the Gubernatorial debate, his stalling post-election suggests he’d rather play politics rather than be an innovative leader on the overdose crisis.
The End Overdose NY coalition is comprised of public health and medical professionals, community-based groups, faith leaders, family members of those struggling with substance use, harm reduction advocates, drug treatment providers as well as people in recovery, and those still actively using drugs. Members are located across New York State, from rural areas to suburban and urban centers – from the Bronx to Buffalo to Binghamton and everywhere in between – and reflect the rich diversity of NY.