The opioid crisis in New York is not showing signs of slowing, as the state continues to break previous records for overdose deaths each year. While the state has not fully embraced all the tools that could stem death rates, recent funding has been directed towards the addiction treatment system. Advocates say the current system has not prioritized the lives of drug users and has led some to call for a complete overhaul.
The opioid crisis in the state has been attributed to widespread addiction, a surge in drug supplies, and the presence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health struggles that often co-occur with drug use, at a time when many services were crippled. Drug treatment officials at the federal and state level are beginning to embrace “harm reduction,” which involves providing accessible services and access to life-saving medication for those struggling with addiction.
However, advocates say that the shift towards harm reduction has come at the expense of thousands of unnecessary deaths due to insufficient social services and a faltering state response. They are calling for a change in the way drug policy is viewed and implemented in the state. “What we’re trying to get across is that we need to change the way we view drug policy entirely,” said Luke Grandis of the advocacy group VOCAL-NY.
In 2021, around 108,000 people died nationally from drug overdoses, with over 10,000 of those deaths occurring in New York. The state saw its highest ever number of overdose deaths in 2020, surpassing the previous record set in 2017. Advocates say that the state must prioritize funding for harm reduction and addiction treatment in order to effectively combat the opioid crisis.
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