ITHACA, NY-Halfway through their trek through New York State to Buffalo, Ryan Thorsen-Carson, Nikki Barva and Emilio Musto of No OD NY stopped by Thursday afternoon outside the Southern Tier AIDS Program to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow overdose prevention sites to begin opening.
The group walks around New York state to draw attention to the fact that it has been almost three years since Cuomo announced that the state Department of Health was designing a pilot program for overdose prevention sites , then known as safe injection facilities, but such a plan has yet to be put in place and the sites remain technically illegal. The strategy has been championed by activists and advocates who argue that removing the stigma of drug use and providing a safe and controlled environment where it can happen would be beneficial and healthier for people with drug addiction and municipalities. in general.
It was also a centerpiece of the Ithaca Plan and a popular talking point for Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, who lobbied for the sites to be introduced to Ithaca, although they are still illegal. He joined the marchers, as well as Anna Kelles, member of the New York State Assembly, John Barry, executive director of the Southern Layer AIDS program and activist Dino Gorman, who lost his son following an overdose in 2017, as they each called on the governor to keep his campaign pledge.
âThese are preventable overdoses, and these are preventable deaths,â said Thorsen-Carson, who was the only one of the walkers addressing the crowd. He said he, Barva and Musto all went to Binghamton earlier this week and were successful in persuading Cuomo’s deputy special adviser to schedule a meeting within 48 hours – a deadline that has since passed without a meeting. âThis broken promise is very, very personal to me. After my best friend died, I started attending a support group with another friend. Eventually, he also died of a fentanyl overdose. [â¦] The Governor’s broken promise means that, I think, because there was no overdose prevention center, which had already been promised in New York, my friend has passed away.
His remarks were followed by Myrick and Kelles. The two took the opportunity to call on Cuomo to authorize the facilities and spoke about the positive impact they would have on widespread substance abuse issues.
âThese centers also have many ancillary benefits,â Myrick said. âThere is less crime around them, it has been proven that people who attend these overdose prevention centers are more likely to enter and successfully complete drug rehab. People who go to overdose prevention centers are also less likely to get infections, these infections that end up being extremely expensive as people walk in and out of emergency rooms. “
Myrick said the new tactic is “common sense” and “what makes good sense in the end will make good politics.”
âThere is a relationship that has been built and an appreciation that it helps them save their own lives,â Kelles continued, touting the impacts of allowing people a safe and trusted place to use drugs – where, in theory, they can also be shown the availability of resources to deal with drug addiction if they wish. âIt’s not just about creating safety around overdoses and relationship building. It is an extension of life. You can’t treat someone if they’re dead.
Dino Gorman then took the floor. He admitted to rejecting the value of overdose prevention centers before, but his perspective changed when his son overdosed – Gorman had no idea his son was using drugs at all.
After this experience, Gorman said he gradually educated himself and his notions about drug addiction and overdose prevention changed. Her late son is one of the people pictured on the banner hanging outside the STAP building on West State Street.
âPeople have to be treated like human beings, so that they are more apt to create this relationship,â said Gorman. âSo they can go ahead and get the help they really want to ask for, but they’re having a hard time. my message here [â¦] other parents like me who have lost their children, and for future parents so that they do not lose their children and know the pain that we go through every day: Governor, please come on and take care of this. Get an overdose prevention site here and now so we can prove it works like other states already do. So that we can save more lives and provide an opportunity for these people to be treated like human beings, which they are.