New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett Featured Speaker at Statewide Overdose Awareness Day Event

Event Honored Lives Lost to Overdose and Recognized Those who Provide Harm Reduction Services

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 15, 2022) – New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett was the featured speaker at the second annual statewide Overdose Awareness Day on September 15, 2022. The two-day online event honored the lives of those lost to overdose and recognized the strides made by harm reduction advocates in advancing opioid overdose prevention programs such as syringe exchange, and those working to erase stigma.

The event began on Sept. 14 with an interactive community program that included personal experiences from people who have survived overdose and addiction, a remembrance photo slide show, and a safe space for anyone needing support as they struggle with their drug use or love someone who uses drugs. Dr. Bassett was the keynote speaker during a webinar on the second day, which focused on health and human service providers who work with people who are battling addiction.

"I am honored to acknowledge and celebrate the providers who work diligently and with great compassion to help overcome the stigma of addiction and the grief of overdose," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "Too many lives have been lost or changed forever by the opioid overdose epidemic, which is why I issued a standing order last month for naloxone to be obtained without a prescription at pharmacies across New York State."

The Sept. 14 online program, which was open to the public, honored lives lost to overdose and included conversations with people about their lived experience with overdose and drug use and a virtual safe space for those needing support.

Dr. Bassett opened the Sept. 15 webinar for health and human service providers, including peers who support those battling the harms of drug use. The program also included other presenters, workshops and panel discussions offering information about traumatic loss including overdose and suicide, as well as discussions on empowering efforts to end stigma and overdose.

New York State's Overdose Awareness Day event was co-sponsored by the Department of Health and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).

New York State Office of Addiction Services and Support Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham said, "The addiction and overdose crisis is impacting individuals, families, and communities, and as we observe Overdose Awareness Day it is a reminder of the toll that this disease has taken on so many people both in New York State and beyond. This statewide observance is a chance for people to remember those who have lost their lives, as well as educate themselves on what they can do to help save lives in their community. It also serves as a reminder of the important work that we do every day to help people who have been affected by this crisis, and prevent overdoses in the future."

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can be easily administered to reverse opioid overdose. Signs of overdose include no or shallow breathing, unconsciousness, failure to respond to stimuli, and blue color to lips or the base of fingernails. Use of naloxone has prevented thousands of overdose deaths by blocking the effects of opioids and allowing a stricken individual to regain consciousness and resume breathing.

Dr. Bassett's standing order makes it easier for families and the community to obtain naloxone and prevent death. Through the State Health Department's Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program (N-CAP), insured individuals may have co-payments of up to $40.00 covered by the State resulting in no cost or lower out-of-pocket expenses. Learn more about Dr. Bassett's naloxone announcement here.

New York State has been a national leader in addressing the opioid crisis. In 1992, the State first authorized syringe exchange programs grounded in harm reduction. Since then, New York has taken a people-centered approach in addressing the comprehensive needs of those who use drugs, including a robust opioid overdose prevention program, which began in 2006 and has trained hundreds of thousands of community members in recognizing and responding to overdoses by calling 911 and administering naloxone.

For more information on how NYSDOH is addressing the opioid epidemic go here.