June 7, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 7, 2021
Jasmine Budnella, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mariah McGough, Mariah@vocal-ny.org
AFTER A FIGHT SPANNING OVER A DECADE, VOCAL-NY CELEBRATES THE SENATE’S PASSAGE OF LIFESAVING BILL TO DECRIMINALIZE AND EXPAND ACCESS TO SYRINGES IN NEW YORK
ALBANY, N.Y. — Today, the New York State Senate passed S2523/A868, legislation to decriminalize syringes and expand access in pharmacies by removing purchasing limits. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Gustavo Rivera, prioritizes evidence-based solutions, rather than further stigmatizing the surging overdose crisis and fragile drug user health infrastructure. For six years, this lifesaving bill has remained stagnant in the Senate, and has stalled out year after year on the Assembly floor.
Following the passage of S2523/A868, VOCAL-NY release the following statement, attributable to Ivette Chavez-Gonzalez, Users Union leader from the Buffalo Chapter :
“After fighting for a decade, we are finally one step closer to ending the criminalization of this critical public health tool, and making sure that New Yorkers across the state are able to access a limitless supply of syringes at their pharmacies. We need the Assembly to follow in the Senate’s footsteps, and show their commitment to reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis-C, and uplifting the health of people who use drugs by passing this bill. In these last 4 days of the legislation session, it would be unethical for Speaker Heastie to not pass this bill in the Assembly.”
For decades, the New York State Department of Health has funded syringe service programs to provide people who use drugs with sterile syringes and supplies — but the state still has a law that makes possession of a syringe illegal and the penalty can be up to a year in jail. Governor Cuomo exacerbated the barriers created by this draconian law during the height of the pandemic by cutting funding to syringe service programs, resulting in a syringe shortage that created HIV clusters and surging hepatitis C rates across the state. Black New Yorkers in particular face significant overdose risk, and are disproportionately criminalized due to institutional racism and the state’s drug laws. Decriminalizing and expanding access to syringes by removing the limit that can be purchased at pharmacies is a vital public health strategy that will save countless lives.
Syringe decriminalization and expansion bill was proposed in the New York State’s Blueprint to End the AIDS Epidemic, and listed as a recommendation in the Joint Senate Task Force on Opioids, Addictions, and Overdose Prevention Report. Yet the bill remained untouched, while related bills have advanced.