The Drug Policy Alliance is delighted to announce the newest addition to our Board of Directors, Joy Fishman.
The paradox of Fishman’s life transformed her pain into a higher purpose. Her late husband, Jack Fishman, is best known as the inventor of the life-saving overdose reversal drug, naloxone.
In a tragic twist of fate, Joy’s son, Jonathan, died of an opioid overdose in 2003 – had naloxone been more widely available at the time, he may have survived. But at the time of Jonathan’s death, she could not have legally purchased or administered the drug her husband was the first to synthesize. The people Jonathan was with when he overdosed didn’t call 911 for fear of getting arrested.
Over the past decade, DPA has played a leading role in passing laws to significantly expand access to naloxone in states and localities across the U.S. DPA has also played a leading role in passing life-saving “911 Good Samaritan” laws in all 50 states, which allow people to call 911 to report an overdose without fear of arrest.
At DPA’s 2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Fishman gave a moving speech upon accepting the Noman E. Zinberg Award for Achievement in the Field of Medicine on behalf of her husband.
“Joy is a committed leader and activist for harm reduction,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Somehow, emerging from immense sorrow, Joy found the strength to become a fearless advocate, carrying forth the legacies of both her husband and her son. She has fought for us to be able to breathe new life into our loved ones.”
Fishman has also played a critical role in advocating for the establishment of syringe access programs in Florida. Despite decades of evidence from dozens of other countries, and other U.S. cities and states, demonstrating their effectiveness in dramatically reducing HIV/AIDS and overdose deaths, Florida had no such programs until 2016, when the state passed legislation establishing a pilot program in Miami. DPA and Fishman are currently working together to pass another bill in Florida this year that would expand the program statewide.
“I don’t want any more mothers to experience the same pain that I have,” said Fishman. “I’m not a fearless person, but I have drawn strength from the Drug Policy Alliance and their work. I feel such immense gratitude to be able to collaborate with them to honor the life of my son and to fulfill the promise of my husband’s work.”