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Legislation Aims to Reduce Opioid Overdoses by Expanding Access to Narcan and Overdose Prevention Tools at NYC Clubs, Bars

New York City Mayor Eric Adams today signed Intro 56, legislation aimed at reducing fatal overdoses by providing free naloxone kits of Narcan to nightlife establishments in New York City to administer in the case of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is a safe medication that can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. At a time when yet to be released overdose deaths from 2021 are expected to exceed 2020, which saw the highest number of overdoses since record keeping began, this bill will put lifesaving tools into the hands of more New Yorkers and train them on how to save lives. With the implementation of this legislation, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) will strengthen its collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and conduct regular overdose response trainings for nightlife venues to ensure that participating staff are equipped to respond to potential overdoses on-site. This bill is part of a larger strategy the city is pursuing to reduce opioid overdoses, including launching the first-in-the-nation overdose prevention centers.

“The overdose crisis has been inflicting pain and heartache on our city for too long, so now is the time to take action,” said Mayor Adams. “One of our city’s residents loses their life to an overdose every three hours, so it is essential we use every tool in our arsenal to tackle this crisis. By providing Narcan kits to New York City nightlife establishments and educating staff on how to use it in the event of an overdose, we will save lives, and build a healthier, safer city for all. We have lost too many New Yorkers to overdoses and too many families and communities have been torn apart, and while this law will not bring back those we have lost, if it can save a single life it is worth it.”

“The city must work to support every New Yorker struggling with substance use issues,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “Today’s announcement is another novel way that we are working to support the community in that effort. Thank you to our government partners and thank you to all our nightlife establishments poised to participate in this program. It is through coordinated support that we will be able to reach our fellow New Yorkers in need.”

“The frank reality is that fentanyl is in the drug supply and it is present in heroin as well as other drugs, such as cocaine,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “That means the person who is using may not anticipate the presence of opioids and those around them may not be ready to respond to an opioid overdose. Having people around who can respond — including our partners in the nightlife industry — can save lives. Moreover, it is a message: As New Yorkers, we look out for each other, and we care.”

“The safety and well-being of the nightlife community is a top priority for the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife. Because of this, we created the Narcan Behind Every Bar program with DOHMH to provide venues, staff, and security with free, life-saving training and overdose rescue kits,” said Ariel Palitz, executive director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Nightlife. “While the fentanyl crisis is not an issue exclusive to nightlife, we know that venues are places where people can look out for and protect each other. We thank Councilmember Chi Ossé and the City Council for their partnership and commitment to addressing this crisis with us, and look forward to continuing our work while implementing this legislation.”

New York City continues to expand initiatives to address the overdose crisis. These include the nation’s first Overdose Prevention Centers, overdose awareness campaigns, expanded access to fentanyl test strips, expanded syringe service outreach and drop-in center operations, and a drug-checking pilot that uses spectrometer technology to identify the presence of a wide range of substances, including fentanyl, in drug samples brought in by program participants.

These efforts to increase the scope and impact of harm reduction services citywide come at a critical moment. In the third quarter of 2021 (July through September), there were 709 unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City, compared to 552 deaths during the same period in 2020. The third quarter of 2021 had the highest number of overdose deaths in a single quarter compared with any quarter on record. DOHMH expects the number of overdose deaths in 2021 to exceed those in 2020, which saw the highest number of overdoses in New York City since records began in 2000.

“This is an overdue measure that will, simply, save lives,” said New York City Councilmember Chi Ossé, chair, Committee on Cultural Affairs. “Each overdose death is a preventable tragedy; we do not accept them here in New York City. In the midst of this raging addiction and overdose crisis, I am proud to partner with Councilmember Powers to pass this necessary bill and thrilled to see the mayor sign it into law. New York City became safer today.”

“Opioid overdoses are on the rise in New York City, and it’s past time that we’re taking action to protect New Yorkers against any more tragedies,” said New York City Councilmember Keith Powers. “I’m very proud to have helped get this lifesaving legislation signed into law, and look forward to a safer and stronger New York City.”

“Healthcare is a human right, and that includes being able to access prevention treatment for opioid overdoses,” said New York City Councilmember Lynn Schulman, chair, Health Committee. “The bills being signed today will provide a level of care and life saving measures never before seen in the city’s night life venues.”

“The bottom line is Narcan saves lives, and this bill helps place Narcan in the hands of people who can administer the drug to those who are overdosing, and provide them more time to get the medical help needed to prevent organ damage and death,” said New York City Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse. “As a nurse, I support all efforts to protect lives and I thank Mayor Adams for signing this bill into law, and Councilman Ossé for his sponsorship.”

“Overdose deaths plague our society and it’s critically important to invest in harm reduction at our city’s social spaces, like bars, nightclubs, and restaurants,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director, NYC Hospitality Alliance. “That’s why, we commend Mayor Adams for signing into law Councilmembers Ossé and Powers legislation that will provide the opioid antagonist Narcan to nightlife establishments and provide their employees with training to administer the medication, to help save lives, just like CPR kits can save lives. We praise Mayor Adams for his commitment to supporting a vibrant and safe nightlife and we look forward to working with the Department of Health and Office of Nightlife to support this important program.”

“Overdose deaths are now the most preventable cause of death in the United States—and we must ensure New Yorkers have the tools and training they need to fight back,” said Ann Marie Foster, president and CEO, Phoenix House of NY. “Deadly fentanyl is poisoning our family and our friends, killing recreational substance users who have no idea what they’re ingesting. This simple initiative could lead to thousands of saved lives in our city and a turn of the tide against the opioid epidemic that is needlessly drowning so many.”