Our Housing Works Shops and eShop provide crucial funding for housing and healthcare services in New York. A big part of our mission at Housing Works is to support the health of people who use drugs through practicing harm reduction. We are currently advocating for Overdose Prevention Centers in New York, which would help prevent unnecessary overdose deaths. We talked with our New York State Community Organizer, Kaitlin Abrams about Overdose Prevention Centers.

Q: What is an Overdose Prevention Center (OPC)?

Kaitlin: Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs) are a form of Harm Reduction: strategies that reduce harm for individuals who are using substances or engaging in high-risk behaviors. In particular, OPCs are safe, clean spaces where individuals can more safely inject (or otherwise use) their pre-obtained drugs with sterile equipment. OPCs are staffed with medical professionals who are trained to intervene in the case of an overdose. Clients who use drugs can also gain access, onsite or by referral, to routine health, mental health, drug treatment and other social services within the OPC.

Q: Why is Housing Works advocating for OPC’s?

Kaitlin: At Housing Works, we believe that each individual’s quality of life should be placed before judgment of their behavior.OPCs are a vital intervention that will save lives, connect people who use drugs to supportive care and resources, and reduce the incidence of transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis. OPCs have the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce incidence of infections, illness and overdose for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Q: What is Housing Works’ role in advocating for policies that support people using drugs?

Kaitlin: In December of 2021, former Mayor Bill De Blasio made the call to allow OPCs to open in NYC, and OnPoint opened two that same week. In the first three weeks of operation, OnPoint’s two OPCs averted 59 overdoses and served over 2,000 clients. Housing Works is now advocating for Governor Hochul to authorize OPCs throughout the State, allowing other municipalities to scale up existing Syringe Exchange Programs and open new OPCs.

Housing Works is also fighting for the decriminalization of buprenorphine (a medication used to treat opioid use disorders) and more funding for Harm Reduction programs.

We also plan to open our own OPC in midtown in the coming months!

Q: What is one thing everyone can do to help prevent overdose in their community?

Kaitlin: I can’t choose just one so you get some bonus answers!

  1. If you use drugs or love someone who uses drugs, and looking to use more safely, consider Harm Reduction services. These include OPCs, clean syringe exchange programs, or counseling and supportive interventions.
  2. Carry Narcan/Naloxone: Narcan is a widely available, safe way to reverse an accidental overdose. You can save someone’s life by learning to recognize the signs of an overdose, what causes them, and how to respond.
  3. Show your support for OPCs opening in your community: Follow @housingworks on Instagram and Twitter to join our calls to action!