Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs)

Overdose Prevention Centers (SCCS)

We made history and became the first organization in the United States to open two Overdose Prevention Centers (SCCs) that monitor drug consumption on-site in East Harlem and Washington Heights. The program is designed to reduce overdose death and other health risks associated with drug use.

Locations

We accommodate people who use drugs whether they are injecting, smoking, sniffing, swallowing, or consuming drugs by another means, particularly as we know that fentanyl has contaminated the entire drug supply. When individuals come into the OPC, they complete a brief enrollment and then are assigned to a booth and are given clean, sterile equipment to use.  

In East Harlem, the OPC has 8 booths and will soon have a smoking room to accommodate 4-6 people who smoke at a time. The OPC in East Harlem adheres to a more traditional medical model, staffed with a nurse and care coordinator. In Washington Heights, the OPC has 6 booths and 2 smoking vestibules, and it is structured as a peer-led model, where the staff are either active drug users or have a recent history of drug use. The OPCs support people with a pre-existing history of drug use, and they are tailored to meet the unique needs of people at high risk of overdose. There is always a 4:1 participant to staff ratio in the OPCs. 

There is no time limit, because we want people to relax, take their time, use safe techniques, and have conversations with our staff and learn health promotion techniques. We monitor them for possible overdose or any other potential medical emergencies. Once they have consumed their drugs, all of the drug use equipment they utilized is disposed of on-site. This is a huge benefit for the community, as none of the used equipment gets discarded in public places. 

We designed the different sites specifically and intentionally to meet the unique needs of the communities we serve. We have been long-standing service providers in East Harlem and Washington Heights, so we have a deep understanding of their different populations. In East Harlem, there is a large Puerto Rican community and individuals are more comfortable having a private space, which is why we have the privacy screens. East Harlem is also a major transit hub, where we see more transient populations who can benefit from the medical model of care.  

In Washington Heights, there is a more social culture, where people know each other, particularly in and around Highbridge Park. In that community, most people who use the OPC are most comfortable consuming their drugs in a peer-led model, which is best suited to meet their needs and comfortability.

Our number one focus is always to ensure that nobody dies in our program. Through the OPC sites, we are serving people who are generally not accepted by society – acknowledging their humanity and recognizing that their lives matter and that they deserve high-quality health care.  The OPCs are about saving lives and offering people the care that they deserve. At the OPCs, we are able to see if a medical emergency occurs immediately, within seconds, ensuring that we don’t have to call 911 – a huge savings to the health and hospital system.

Program Goals

The objective of our OPCs is twofold. First and foremost, the program is designed to reduce overdose death and other health risks associated with drug use, and to promote lasting connection into care. Further, the OPCs seeks to significantly reduce instances of public drug use and improperly disposed syringe litter in parks and public spaces. The overarching goal is to promote safety, wellness, and dignity for all, both participants of the program and the larger community where these programs operate.

Our OPCs’ primary goals are:

  • To prevent overdose deaths;
  • To prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases, such as Hepatitis C and HIV, by offering sterile supplies and prevention education;
  • To reach out to marginalized people who use drugs and create opportunities to reduce stigma;
  • To be there to listen and support participants to move towards stability and wellness, as they define it;
  • To build bridges for participants to access healthcare and other social services; 
  • To promote public safety by reducing the incidence of public injection and improperly discarded syringes in public spaces; and
  • To reduce costs for and burden to the health care system and police.
BACKGROUND

Our OPCs are modeled after similar evidence-based, public health facilities operating in over 120 locations, in 10 countries around the world (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland). The first opened in Bern, Switzerland in 1986. 

There has never been an overdose death at one of these sites. 

Our OPCs is a response to an unabating public health crisis resulting in catastrophic loss of life and profound distress in communities across the United States. Many of the participants who utilize our life-saving programs and services encounter multiple barriers when trying to access health, housing, and social services. These barriers are often the result of experiencing periods of homelessness, past and ongoing trauma, poverty, mental health challenges, extreme grief, social and cultural dislocation, frequent incarceration, loss of children and family, physical ailments, and chaotic lifestyles, to name just a few, in addition to addiction challenges. 

These programs are one small part of a larger solution to this crisis – one that involves increased prevention education, mass reform to addiction treatment and outdated drug policy enforcement strategies, and further expansion of harm reduction services across the country. 

We work to provide low barrier services in a welcoming and inclusive community where participants recognize they are treated with dignity and accepted as they are. While acknowledging that for many people change is a slow and constant struggle, our team works to maintain a space where change remains a possibility. We do not take an institutionalized, “one-size-fits-all” approach, but, instead, deal respectfully with a wide variety of issues and behaviors and approach each person with a strategic pragmatism forged through experience and care. Our programs seek to be restorative. This means focusing on people’s gifts rather than deficiencies. 

The staff team working in our OPCs are diverse and include overdose prevention specialists, nurses, and case managers – a deliberate mix of clinical and non-clinical, professional, and paraprofessional staff. 

Visit Us

East Harlem
104 -106 E 126th St #1A
New York, NY 10035
info@nyhre.org
(212) 828-8464

Washington Heights
500 W 180th St
New York, NY 10033

Drop-in Centers Hours
Washington Heights DIC
Monday – Friday: 9 AM – 8 PM
Weekends: 9 AM – 4:30 PM 

East Harlem DIC
Monday – Friday: 9 AM – 8 PM

Other Services

Our Drop-In Centers (DIC) are no-barrier, walk-in spaces at both locations, East Harlem and Washington Heights, where we offer coffee, snacks, showers, bathrooms, and laundry. We focus on meeting participants’ basic needs, building trusting relationships, and then gradually engaging individuals in higher levels of care.

We provide syringe exchange, safer drug use supply provision, education, and counseling which provide people who use drugs with the tools they need to reduce the potential harms associated with drug use and needle-sharing, including information on safer sex, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

We made history and became the first organization in the US to open two OPCs (also known as Supervised Consumption Centers) that monitor drug consumption on-site in East Harlem and Washington Heights. The program reduces overdose death and health risks associated with drug use.

We offer an array of in-house clinical services for people who use drugs or engage in sex work including HIV and Hep-C testing, wound care, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), including buprenorphine, medical assessments, and counseling. We also provide the COVID-19 vaccine, flu shots, acupuncture, acupressure, and reiki.

We operate a hotline number (718-415-3708) for community members to report syringe litter or public drug use. Our staff dispatches a team to clean up the area and to help divert public use. We also educate our community members on harm reduction, overdose prevention, and other services.

We have teams of Case Managers at both of our locations who conduct benefits navigation, advocacy, health navigation, case conference sessions with various providers, drug education groups, individual counseling, and modalities for safer drug use.

Explore our health & wellness services

This Overdose Awareness Day, Help Us Save Lives.

Progress Towards Our $109,247 Goal
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