Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Drug control in the United States has been driven and underpinned by structural and institutional racism. The application of racialized drug laws has disproportionally impacted individuals and communities of color. The results of an aggressive drug policy have impacted people who use drugs by an over-policing of their communities, reduced educational opportunities, lower economic attainment, removal of children from families, and has driven an era of mass incarceration.

Drugs and people who use drugs have been intentionally stigmatized with the intended goal of dissuading individuals from purchasing and consuming drugs. However, it has resulted in people not seeking healthcare, treatment, or other care services. An example of institutional stigma is the ban on the use of federal funds to purchase syringes. Despite syringe service programs being recognized by the federal government as a valuable strategy to contain the spread of disease and as a means of connecting people to care, a federal ban remains in place. People who use drugs are a criminalized and stigmatized class of individuals and therefore have been mostly excluded from the problem-solving that we face as a nation. Yet when consulted or involved in the decision-making process, the community comes up with syringe exchange, naloxone distribution, and improvements to the treatment system. NYS focuses its efforts by centering the lives of people who use drugs and recognizes that to achieve equity means challenging the legacy and on-going impact of the war on drugs.

New York, like many states, is suffering the consequences of an opioid overdose epidemic. The New York State Department of Health, utilizing a harm reduction approach, focuses on statewide prevention activities to build a coordinated approach to reduce deaths from overdose, undo stigma, provide equitable access to services, and evaluate state and local programs. Efforts include:

  • Building and sustaining Syringe Service Programs and Drug User Health Hubs throughout NYS
  • Providing easy access to buprenorphine
  • Distributing naloxone throughout New York State
  • Identifying and sharing data between agencies and affected communities
  • Providing resources to assist communities in combating the opioid epidemic at the local level
  • Coordinating statewide and community programs to improve the effectiveness of opioid prevention efforts.
  • Developing training for health care providers on addiction, pain management, and treatment
  • Making the prescription drug monitoring program easier for providers to access and use

Know the Risks

Be informed. Learn more about opioids and the dangers associated with taking them. Take steps to protect yourself and your family.

Recognize the Signs of Drug Dependence

Anyone can use opioids and other drugs, anyone can develop a dependence, and anyone can overdose. Know the warning signs before it's too late.

Prevent an Overdose and Get Treatment

If you or someone you love is using drugs or may be addicted, take steps to protect yourself or loved one from overdose and find treatment.

Syringe Service Programs (SSP)

Syringe Service Programs or Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs) were first authorized and regulated in New York State in 1992. These are multiservice agencies for people who use drugs and provide a range of social services including medical care, access to treatment including buprenorphine, counseling, and case management and referrals. Community-based organizations, local health departments and health clinics also have the option to become Second-tier Syringe Exchange Programs (STSEPs). STSEPs are similar to SEPs and allow government agencies and not-for-profit organizations to provide syringes to their existing patients and clients. The Commissioner of Health approves the waivers for each of the SEPs.

Opioid Overdose Prevention Program (OOPP)

Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs (OOPPs), which were first authorized in New York State in April 2006, train non-medical persons to recognize opioid overdoses and to respond appropriately by calling 911 and administering naloxone, the antidote for these overdoses. Currently, more than 1,000 registered programs offer training and either provide naloxone at no cost to persons they have trained or refer these individuals to pharmacies to obtain their naloxone. The Commissioner of Health is the individual authorized to approve programs to become Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs.

See more information about the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program.


The Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program (N-CAP) can cover up to $40 in prescription co-payments to reduce or eliminate out-of-pocket expenses when getting naloxone at a participating pharmacy.

About the Office of Drug User Health

The Office of Drug User Health is within the Department's AIDS Institute. Read more about the Office of Drug User Health.