Overdose prevention makes treatment possible

With another year comes a new opportunity for New York State to officially sanction and fund Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs), proven facilities that specialize in providing a place for people with substance abuse problems to test and use opioids and other drugs while being referred to services that can help them ultimately kick the habit.

In recent years, two such centers have been run by the nonprofit OnPoint in Upper Manhattan with the blessing of New York, but not Albany, despite ample evidence that the model works . With the State Opioid Resolution Advisory Council meeting last week In developing recommendations to allocate tens of millions of dollars in settlement funds for opioid relief, state recalcitrance precludes the option of funding OPCs.

Authorities point to the federal so-called “crack house” law, which prohibits providing a space for illegal drug use. Yet the state’s ability to push the boundaries of the law through creative interpretations or sheer bluster is well established. Absolutely no layman would imagine that laws allowing gambling on the premises of a few upstate casinos would allow mobile sports gaming throughout the state simply because the servers technically executing the transactions are located in the physical casinos themselves. -themselves.

Marijuana, although currently undergoing reclassification, remains an illegal drug at the federal level, but the state has, like many others, succeeded in not only decriminalizing the drug, but also creating a regulated recreational market (which is poorly done, but that’s beyond the point). The state routinely meets legal deadlines and skirts requirements when it suits lawmakers and officials, but in this case it’s seemingly an insurmountable obstacle.

Meanwhile, opioid-related deaths in the state remain high, increasing again last year, with more than 3,400 overdoses reported across New York between May 2022 and 2023. The lethality of the drugs obscures the extent to which overdoses can be survivable; in fact, almost all ongoing overdoses can be reversed if opioid antagonists are administered immediately. This fact is confirmed by the fact that to date, not a single person has died from an overdose in an OPC, neither here in our two centers in New York, nor in the pioneering Insite center in Canada, nor in those long-standing in Europe, not anywhere.

It depends on the timing. The second an overdose begins, the clock is ticking until the user’s probable death. If a user is alone, they’re probably out of luck. Even if someone else is present, you should have an antagonist such as naloxone on hand or immediately call 911, which should arrive quickly. An OPC, on the other hand, is structured in such a way that it is almost impossible for a certain amount of time to pass between an overdose and the application of an antagonist.

Both public perception and the federal law that ostracizes these centers virtually envision dirty and dangerous drug dens that will breed crime and disorder. In reality, OnPoint facilities fall somewhere between halfway houses and clinics, with staff trained in medical practices and comprehensive services offered to often grateful addicts. This is just one crucial part of the broader harm reduction and prevention strategy. You cannot provide care or assistance to the dead.