Press Release

May 11: Free Conference in Binghamton Will Explore Effective Responses to Opioid Overdose in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier

More than 150 Advocates, Service Providers, Those with Lived Experience, and Other Experts Will Gather to Discuss Best Practices for Reducing Harms Associated with Suburban and Rural Drug Use


Conference Coincides with Unprecedented Momentum for Both Life-Saving Supervised Consumption Spaces and New Draconian Sentencing Legislation

Contact: Sheila Vakharia 212-613-8058
Tony Newman 646-335-5384


New York (Binghamton) –Opioid overdose rates have increased throughout New York State since 2006, and overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death. Drug use has affected all communities across New York, but most of our drug policy, education, and treatment services, focus on urban areas. In fact:


  • The number of opioid-related deaths in rural counties in New York State has increased by 295%
  • The opioid death rate in rural New York has increased by 332%
  • Rates of heroin-related deaths, especially in suburban and rural counties in New York, have increased by 442% since 2012.

On Friday, May 11th, more than 150 advocates, services providers, medical professionals, and other experts will come together at a free day-long conference and strategy session in Binghamton entitled, Drug use in Upstate New York: Strategies for Change and Reducing the Harms.


This event is particularly timely as there is unprecedented momentum building in Ithaca and New York City for life-saving supervised consumption spaces and on the flip side, comes on the heels of several senators from the region passing a slate of draconian bills focused on expanding criminalization and enforcement strategies.


“As rates of opioid overdose continue to climb in Upstate New York, communities need strategies for addressing drug use that are responsive to unique regional needs, resources, and challenges. That said, the evidence is clear about what works in communities of all sizes: centering public health not criminalization,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “New York is in a unique position to step up and implement innovative drug policies rooted in science, compassion, and public health rather than punitive approaches. By bringing together such a wide array of experts, this conference promises to generate important solutions that can help save lives.”


Co-hosted by Binghamton University’s Institute for Justice and Well-Being and the Drug Policy Alliance, the conference will provide an overview of the problems surrounding drug use in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier.


Current conversations surrounding opioid use does not address the distinct challenges suburban and rural drug users’ experience, such as gaps within services, transportation, and lack of access to service providers.


“Truth Pharm has been advocating for drug user health, harm reduction and an end to the criminalizing of substance users in the Southern Tier. We have been tireless in our efforts to expose the discrimination of medical providers towards substance users, the gaps in services, conditions at the jail, the racial divide in our area and the struggle of families trying to obtain effective help for their loved ones. Sadly, we are often left to simply support the families who lose their loved ones due to a broken system with no options beyond total abstinence. We are excited and grateful our allies are coming to support our call for forward thinking and effective lifesaving measures,” said Alexis Pleus, Executive Director of Truth Pharm.


Panelists will speak to these issues and discuss a wide range of strategies to tailor prevention, harm reduction, and treatment for rural settings, such as implementing mobile health and social services. 


Panelists and attendees will generate best practices for reducing harms associated with drug use in suburban and rural areas, strategies for moving local policy change forward, and discuss the role of the criminal justice system in relation to drug use. Attendees will also have the opportunity to work in small, regional groups and develop local strategies and concrete plans for helping people who use drugs in their communities. 


During the facilitated regional breakouts, experts will sit with groups and workshop strategies for distinct circumstances of represented communities. Experts providing support will range from various backgrounds, including housing, medicine, harm reduction, law enforcement, and policy.


The event is free, but participants must pre-register here.


The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading drug policy reform organization and fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.


Harm Reduction
Supervised Consumption Services