As NYC overdoses spike, harm reduction needed more than ever
“While they drag their feet, people are dying”
As overdoses continue to soar in New York City, NYC Health is asking the community to carry naloxone (commonly known by brand name Narcan) to reverse overdoses. Overdoses are preventable, and access to naloxone — among other harm reduction supplies and support — saves lives. We applaud NYC Health for ringing the alarm about this and naming the importance of overdose prevention centers (OPCs) throughout the city, though the realities of how and why these overdoses continue to steal the lives of our collective community is no secret. Until OPCs and other life-saving harm reduction services are truly supported, invested in, and expanded, these grim reports will repeat themselves.
Some of the devastating racial/ethnic impacts in the report’s findings are as follows:
- In 2022, there were 3,026 overdose deaths in NYC. Of those deaths, 1,032 overdose victims were Black — roughly ⅓ of the overall overdose deaths.
- Rates of overdose death increased for Black, Latine/x, and white New Yorkers, and Black New Yorkers had the highest rate in 2022 (62.0 per 100,000), followed by Latine/x New Yorkers (53.1 per 100,000).
- In 2022, Bronx residents had the highest rates of overdose in NYC (73.6 per 100,000).
Read NYC Health’s full Epi Data Brief on unintentional overdose deaths here: https://www.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/epi/databrief137.pdf.
“The blood of those who have died from a preventable overdose is on the hands of our elected officials who have allowed this to happen year after year. Despite being provided sound science and research project after research project on the effectiveness of OPCs and other harm reduction strategies, there has been no real systemic change in addressing the “War On Drugs” — which we know is actually a war on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities,” NHRC’s Community and Capacity Building Manager, Hiawatha Collins, said.
He continued, “They do not have the political will to do what they know works. They form committee after committee and nothing is implemented, and no policies are changed or created that would lower the number of preventable opioid overdose. While they drag their feet, people are dying.”
Collins pointed to harm reduction services including OPCs that operate around the world saving countless lives, and questioned why the few life-saving hubs available in NYC receive push-back and threats to be shut down.
He said, “It is a public health issue that requires compassion, not punishment and primitive approaches. We need leaders who want to truly lead and follow the science, not the false narratives and scare tactics creating separation of people and communities.”