The Drug Policy Alliance Releases Public Health and Safety Plan to Address Problematic Opioid Use and Overdose

Press Release December 6, 2016
Media Contact

Lindsay LaSalle, 415-991-3503
Tommy McDonald, 510-679-2311

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading proponent of drug policy reform, is releasing a plan to address increasing rates of opioid use and overdose (now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States).  The plan marks a radical departure from the punitive responses that characterize much of U.S. drug policy and instead focuses on scientifically proven harm reduction and public health interventions that can improve treatment outcomes and reduce the negative consequences of opioid misuse, such as transmission of infectious diseases and overdose.

“In the face of the current opioid epidemic, including the rise of fentanyl, now is not the time to double down on the failed policies of criminalization of drugs, but rather to dramatically ramp up the most evidence-based and promising approaches for treatment and prevention such as those outlined in the Drug Policy Alliance’s opioid response plan,” said Dr. Josiah Rich, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

As both seasoned and newly elected officials grapple with how to address the growing concern with opioids in their respective backyards, the Drug Policy Alliance’s plan offers specific policy proposals that, if implemented, will increase access to effective treatment, expand harm reduction services, prevent further opioid misuse, reduce the role of criminalization and lessen incarceration, and decrease racial disparities.  Some of the more than twenty innovative and cutting-edge recommendations in the plan include:

“Opioid misuse and overdose are complex issues that require a multifaceted, comprehensive approach,” said Lindsay LaSalle, Senior Staff Attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance.  “In taking some or all or the steps delineated in the plan, local, state, and federal policymakers can act to ensure healthier, safer populations while avoiding failed strategies that drive people away from care and treatment, exacerbate racial disparities, and waste scare public resources.”

While the Drug Policy Alliance has been advocating for advancement of these interventions for decades, the plan’s release acknowledges the potential willingness of elected officials to engage in harm reduction and public health approaches to drug use in ways before unimagined.  Indeed, Nevada and Maryland have previously introduced legislation to create HAT pilot projects and Maryland, California, and a number of municipalities including Ithaca and New York City, New York and Seattle, Washington have considered implementation of SIFs.

“To save lives today, it’s imperative cities act now on this plan’s recommendations to implement public health innovations in their own communities and that federal government follow suit and lift barriers to get people the help they need,” said City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. “It’s time to put health and people first.”

Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom agrees: “The Drug Policy Alliance’s plan maps out a vision for ushering in a new era of drug policy in the United States.  Elected officials must embrace evidence-based solutions to the growing opioid epidemic if we are to start making a dent and protecting the people we serve.  The old solutions have failed.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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