Press Conference Today: Chair of Global Commission on Drug Policy Visits Ithaca, Discusses Municipal Drug Strategy

Press Release November 15, 2016
Media Contact

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<p>Kassandra Frederique, 646-209-0374<br />
Tony Newman 646-335-5384</p>

Ithaca, NY – The former President of Switzerland, Ms. Ruth Dreifuss, is touring Ithaca today in her role as the Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international body that aims to bring an informed, science-based discussion about humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies to the global stage. President Dreifuss and Mayor Myrick will hold a joint press conference today at Ithaca City Hall at 5 pm.

Press Conference details:

DATE: Wednesday, November 16, 2016
TIME: 5 pm
LOCATION: Ithaca City Hall, 108 E. Green St.

Amid a climate in which the dismantling of fundamental human rights is the order of the day at the federal level and, in many cases, the state level, Ithaca is setting an example to the country of bold municipal leadership and demonstrating how to ensure our cities are safe harbors for people, especially those made most vulnerable as a result of the 2016 election cycle.

President Dreifuss is visiting Ithaca to encourage the type of strong and principled municipal leadership that Mayor Myrick and the city of Ithaca are advancing in the face of the opioid overdose epidemic—now the leading cause of accidental death both statewide and nationally. During her time in the city, President Dreifuss will discuss the opportunity for Ithaca to be the first U.S. city to model a safe injection facility, based on the groundbreaking recommendations in The Ithaca Plan. President Dreifuss will share lessons learned from Switzerland’s safe injection facilities, which have led the global conversation on new approaches to drug policy since the country opened the first safe injection facility in the world in the 1986. The President will also visit some of Ithaca’s key service providers for vulnerable populations, such as the Southern Tier AIDS Project and Second Wind cottages.

“In Ithaca we’re enacting pragmatic solutions to the opioid crisis based on deep conversations within our community,” said Mayor Svante Myrick. “In recent years we’ve made tremendous progress in understanding of the roots of the opioid crisis and developing new strategies to prevent overdose deaths. In what could be a time of backsliding on these issues at the federal level, Ithaca stands firm in our commitment to take a new approach based on commonsense solutions, compassion, evidence-based drug policy, and human rights.”

President Dreifuss is a crucial ally in New York State’s push to bring commonsense solutions to bear on the opioid crisis, regardless of the retrograde national political scene. Prior to serving as the President of Switzerland, Ms. Ruth Dreifuss was head of the Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs, the ministry responsible for public health, social insurance, scientific research, higher education, gender equality and culture, and environment. In that capacity, she implemented pivotal new policy in the fields of drug addiction and prevention of HIV/AIDS and looks forward to discussing how Ithaca can advance life-saving measures at the municipal level.

In the week following the 2016 election results, Governor Cuomo, New York City Mayor De Blasio, and Mayor Myrick have all proclaimed that New York State will continue to a be standard-bearer of human rights. In the midst of the opioid crisis in New York, it’s all the more important for elected officials to push forward with bold policies and approaches that will save lives, improve public health, and protect the most vulnerable members of our state. Advocates and people who are directly affected are counting on elected officials to maintain their strong stand and crucial leadership during this time when many lives hang in the balance.

“New York State must continue to shift its approach away from the failed policies of the war on drugs to evidence ¬based drug policies that prioritize public health over costly criminal justice strategies,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Ithaca Plan presents a life-saving model for preventing overdose deaths and building community engagement around real solutions. It’s wonderful that the Chair of the Global Commission on Drugs has traveled to Ithaca to learn more about the innovative approach being implemented here.”


Based on a year-long process involving a wide array of stakeholders ranging from the Police Chief and treatment providers to people who use drugs and parents, The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy, marks a radical departure from punitive responses to drugs rooted in law enforcement that characterize much of U.S. drug policy. The Ithaca Plan instead focuses on public health, economic development, and harm reduction, including expanding access to medication assisted treatments, such as methadone and buprenorphine; increasing youth employment programs; and opening the nation’s first supervised injection facility.

Safe injection facilities—spearheaded in Switzerland in the 1980s and now numbering more than 100 sites worldwide—have been shown to sharply reduce fatal overdoses as well as reduce HIV and viral hepatitis transmission and public disorder.

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

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