The number of drug overdose deaths in the US more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2019, and opioid overdose was declared a national public health emergency in 2017. Nationally, overdose deaths were the highest on record in 2020 with over 91,000 drug-involved overdose deaths and over 68,000 opioid-involved overdose deaths reported. New York State is no exception to the trend –drug-involved overdose deaths increased by 37% between 2019 and 2020, and overdose deaths involving any opioid increased by 44% during the same period for an average of nearly 12 deaths every day.
In response to the growing crisis, New York State convened a Heroin and Opioid Task Force in May 2016and on November 30th, 2021 New York became the first US city to open officially authorized Overdose Prevention Centers. Overdose Prevention Centers are an evidence-based approach to preventing overdose deaths adopted by countries around the world, however they remain unsanctioned in the US. They offer supervised, hygienic spaces for people who use drugs to do so safely, and provide a connection to health promoting services, such as harm reduction, medical care, mental health therapy, drug treatment and social supports. In addition, Overdose Prevention Centers improve individual and community health, increase public safety and reduce the social consequences of drug use.
Opponents view the Centers as magnets for drug use, however the New York State Department of Health announced that in their first three months of operation, the Centers were used more than 9,500 times and staff on-site averted more than 150overdoses to prevent injury and death.
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