Monday, November 26, 2018

"Safe consumption saves lives. End overdose NOW!": Artist Nan Goldin and Drug Policy Activists Set Up Pop-Up Mock Overdose Prevention Center Outside Gov.Cuomo’s NYC Office & Demand Urgent Approval of 5 Pilot Overdose Prevention Centers #EndOverdoseNY

Nan Goldin, LA Kauffman, and activists with VOCAL declare: "Safe consumption saves lives. End overdose NOW! Not one more! End overdose now! Governor Cuomo! You wait! We die! You wait! We die!"

NYers Dying While Cuomo Drags Feet On Heroin Sites, Activists Say

Activists slammed Gov. Cuomo for taking too long to clear the way for safe consumption sites. "He hasn't got off his behind yet," one said.

By Noah Manskar, Patch Staff  | Updated 

2 hours ago

BREAKING: activists set up pop up mock Overdose Prevention Center outside ‘s Manhattan office, demanding he approve the lifesaving measure.

@VOCALNewYork tweeted:
“It doesn’t matter if someone uses drugs today, tomorrow, or yesterday. It’s about keeping them alive enough to recover.” -

3 hours ago
Nan Goldin addresses the media on the the need for NY to lead the country with and calls for dignity and care for people who use drugs.

Image may contain: Benjamin Heim Shepard, smiling, standing and outdoor

Photo and caption by Erik McGregor. "Drug policy activists set up a pop-up safe injection room and held a speak-out in front of Governor Cuomo’s NYC office on November 26, 2018 to demand the urgent approval of 5 pilot overdose prevention centers. Activists stood united in anger as overdose deaths continue to increase, while the Governor refuses to move forward with this life-saving intervention."

On Sunday, I got a call that VOCAL-NY was planning an action at the Governor's office over the need for safe injection rooms in  New York City.

Activists and artists, photographer Nan Goldin and others would be there to speak out about the ongoing public health crisis. 

All year long, harm reduction activists, nurses, researches, and drug users have pushed the Mayor and now the governor to follow the science around the issue of safe consumption sites.  Activists have died in, gotten arrested, even causing a ruckus at the  Metropolitan Museum over the opioid epidemic, the overdose crisis, and the need for harm reduction, and safer consumption sites.
 After the Mayor’s Historic Announcement in Support of Overdose Prevention Centers in May, the Community is Impatient with the Governor's Inaction.

In response, New York, NY: Artist/Activist Nan Goldin, P.A.I.N Sackler, and drug policy activists planned to set up a  pop-up safe injection room and hold a speak-out in front of Governor Cuomo’s NYC office.

When  I arrived outside the governor's office a few men were sleeping in the street outside. 
Across the street, a group of activists with VOCAL and Housing Works were busy assembling a safe shape model of a safe injection room that they would place in front of the governor's office.  

As they worked, Goldin and other activists arrived, bringing coffee for everyone.

"Show time y'all," noted Jeremy of VOCAL, huddling
everyone together to talk about the plan for bringing our safe shape out in front of the governor's office, demonstrating just how easy it is to make this common sense public health intervention happen.

Whose willing to get arrested, asked Jeremy.
Several of us raised our hands.
We need you to lead us with banners.
Some eight of us, including Goldin, carried the banners across the  street, blocking  traffic with the messages:
"New York: End  Overdoses Now!"
"Governor While You Wait New Yorkers Die!"

And we put the pop-up safe injection room in front  of the governor's office, chanting:
"Not one more!  You wait! We die!"
"Promises made, promises broken!"
"Safe consumption saves lives!"

Nan Goldin stood up to speak,  raising her arm in the  traffic:
"You promised us five sites," she began, directing us to point our anger toward the governor.

"Its about respect. When someone goes to a clinic, they need respect.
200 people die a day! We need these sites because they save lives. 
It should be like any other doctor's visit. Everyone deserves respect."

Her point has been born out over and over again by the research and the practice of harm reduction centers around the world.  I saw it in our syringe exchange in the Bronx.  People come for the syringe exchange.  But in doing so, they connect with health care, prevention services,  housing, and education. 

"Its a place where people get safety and care," noted HiawathaCollins of VOCAL and Harm Reduction Coalition, echoing Goldin's point.  
"Do away with the stigma of drug use. This is what needs to happen now."   

Activists stood united in anger as overdose deaths continue to increase, while the Governor refuses to move forward with this life-saving intervention. 

"I'm tired of watching my friends and family die, governor!  Get off your ass!" noted another VOCAL supporter. Stop playing games with peoples' lives.  Stop waiting for the right political climate.  Political climates do not save the lives of my community.  Action does. Do so and you'll have my backing. End overdose now.  The mayor has asked for this, for your support.  Can you show us that that support?

As the speakout continued, a group of police arrived. 

Funny how fast the police were to get here, to respond.
But not the cops in my community, noted one of the speakers.

As they arrived, we reminded Governor Cuomo that we are prepared to use the same aggressive tactics that ushered the city’s historic announcement to garner state unity, including civil disobedience.

After an aggressive campaign, activists pushed Mayor de Blasio to support piloting four NYC Overdose Prevention Centers. In 2016, Ithaca Mayor Myrick introduced the Ithaca Plan, which also voiced support for a overdose prevention center pilot. For the last six months, the two cities have been waiting for New York State’s Department of Health to approve the pilot. While Governor Cuomo signaled his support for the centers during the Gubernatorial debate, his stalling post-election suggests he’d rather play politics rather than be an innovative leader on the overdose crisis.

After years of OxyContin use and a nonfatal overdose from fentanyl, artist Nan Goldin turned her anger to activism by targeting the Sackler family and calling out their influence on the crisis. Goldin and the activist group she founded,  P.A.I.N Sackler, have staged multiple direct actions in museums funded by the Sacklers, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

“My group PAIN, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, proudly stands with VOCAL-NY in advocating urgently for the use of safe consumption sites in New York State and all over America,” said Nan Goldin, Artist and founder of P.A.I.N Sackler. “We consider this the most effective method to immediately save lives within the communities hardest hit. We demand the Governor live up to his word and make this real. The time is now. We cannot wait.”

"Governor Cuomo cannot continue to block a lifesaving intervention and let our communities die," said Asia Betancourt, Community Leader at VOCAL-NY.  "I want to remind the Governor that we will not stay silent or patient. In May, my peers and I put our bodies on the line and were arrested outside City Hall to get the Mayor to hear our voices. We are ready to take any measure necessary to get approval for Overdose Prevention Centers."

“Governor Cuomo has run out of time and valid reasons to hold up implementing a public health tool that is crucial for saving lives amid the overdose crisis,” said Kassandra Frederique, NY State Director at Drug Policy Alliance. “This is not a moment for political posturing or calculus--the only thing that keeps adding up while he fails to act is the number of lives lost unnecessarily. We need the Governor to take action immediately on Overdose Prevention Centers to save lives and connect people with care.”

“It’s well past time for Governor Cuomo to do what he knows is right,” said Charles King, co-founder and President/CEO of Housing Works.Overdose Prevention Centers not only prevent overdose--they are centers of care and acceptance that serve as a gateway to deliver the services that people who use drugs need to live healthy lives.”

There is something undeniably powerful about watching a hero of yours stand up to speak out about her struggles with drug use and pain, rejecting stigma, calling for the world to find more compassionate approaches to coping with addiction, for public health instead of shame-based approaches. Thanks for showing us the way Nan Goldin! Thanks@

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