Leading advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC), and VOCAL-NY criticized Gov. Cuomo’s proposed 30-Day Budget Amendment provision to add fentanyl analogues to the state controlled substances schedule.
“The Governor boasts about giving law enforcement the tools they need to make more arrests, but says nothing about providing people at risk of overdose with the tools they need to survive,” said Daniel Raymond, HRC’s Deputy Director of Planning and Policy. “We won’t end the overdose crisis by filling up jail cells. Governor Cuomo needs to make a serious investment in harm reduction strategies that work.”
“We already know the strategies that can end the overdose crisis – public health and education. Scheduling fentanyl does not make people less likely to come in contact with the drug, nor does it give them the tools they need to not die. Criminalization further stigmatizes people and makes it harder for people to get help,” said Kassandra Frederique, DPA’s New York State Director. “Fentanyl is a serious public health issue and we need universal access to harm reduction tools like drug checking spaces, testing strips, and wraparound services to address this urgent issue. The administration should look at the John Hopkins study on fentanyl and adopt their recommendations – it will save law enforcement resources and it will save many lives.”
DPA, HRC, and VOCAL-NY recently launched the End Overdose NY campaign, with a three-point platform of next steps to reverse the overdose epidemic:
1. Universal access to naloxone, medication-assisted treatment, and harm reduction services for all people who use drugs
2. Innovative strategies for an evolving epidemic:
• Buprenorphine in jails, emergency departments, and syringe exchange programs
• Expand pre-arrest diversion programs
• Permanent supportive housing using Housing First models
• Post-overdose counseling and support
• Safer consumption spaces
3. Public education and anti-stigma campaigns led by people with histories of drug use
“While Governor Cuomo’s proposals for combating fentanyl make for a good press release, they will not save a single life,” said Jeremy Saunders, co-director of VOCAL-NY. “What will save a life is naloxone, a medication that can reverse a fentanyl overdose, yet there is no dedicated funding for it in Cuomo’s budget. Or buprenorphine, a medication for people struggling with opioid dependency, yet this medication is virtually impossible to access for many New Yorkers who live in rural counties with the highest rates of overdose. New Yorkers dying of overdose do not need another press release, they need solutions that work.”
DPA, HRC, and VOCAL-NY are urging Governor Cuomo to take immediate action on investing in harm reduction strategies, including safer consumption spaces to protect vulnerable people from risk of fatal overdose. All three groups spoke last week in favor of New York State Assembly Bill A8534, legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal to allow the establishment of Safer Consumption Spaces.