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Overdose prevention sites share six-month life-saving stats

NYC overdose prevention sites celebrate 6-month milestone
NYC overdose prevention sites celebrate 6-month milestone 02:51

NEW YORK - Six months have passed since the opening of the nation's first authorized sites where drug users can inject their products under nurse supervision. The OnPoint NYC organization runs the two locations in Upper Manhattan, and celebrated the milestone with a wellness event at Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park.

The event healed guests with music and sage burning, while providing information on other valuable resources OnPoint NYC provides.

"I see a reduction of people out here I used to see just six months ago," said OnPoint NYC executive director Sam Rivera. "It's working."

Rivera said he is not receiving as much backlash these days. Neighbor Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, who has been outspoken about her concerns for OnPoint NYC's approach, is still seeing people on her block.

"I says why don't you just walk over there, I'll give you the address," Asberry-Chresfield recalled about a recent interaction. "And they apologized for being on my stoop but they said no, they wanted to take their drugs then."

OnPoint NYC's team has reversed 314 overdoses so far, far ahead of the expected 130 annual overdose reversals by year four.

"People who are using are going to use until they're ready to stop," Rivera said. "So if we keep them alive as we are, they have the opportunity to stop or to reduce and get to a place where they're healthier."

OnPoint NYC reports 1,252 individuals have utilized the sites 20,708 times.

Since opening, OnPoint NYC's teams have safely disposed of 472,670 syringes that may have otherwise ended up on sidewalks and in playgrounds.

"You still see them, but you really don't see as many," Asberry-Chresfield admitted, "and if you call OnPoint they will send someone out to pick the needles up."

OnPoint NYC is showing clients how to use needles to heal instead of harm, through acupuncture. That is how Michelle Harrow broke her ten-year cycle of homelessness and addiction.

"My head and my spirit just came like more as one," Garrow said. "And I was able to venture away from the constant addictive thoughts that I was having."

Garrow is now a staff member at OnPoint NYC, administering acupuncture to others, like Sonia Neal and Cheryl Doctry.

"When you're in active addiction, it's nothing but negativity around you," Neal told CBS2's Jessi Mitchell. "It's like a dark cloud. When you come here it's like you can breathe."

Neal and Doctry feel encouraged to stay clean, because they are learning how to help themselves and others. OnPoint NYC teaches participants how to administer Narcan if they see someone having an overdose.

"That you can be in someone's life to keep them from dying, to be able to say I helped that person is like a wonderful feeling," Doctry said.

In March, President Biden called for a nearly $40 billion budget increase to support harm-reduction programs like OnPoint NYC, and the sites have the Adams administration's full support.

Rivera said his team's work shows they are answering the call of the community.

"They're telling us they don't want people in these parks using drugs," he said. "They don't want litter, syringe litter and, and other paraphernalia around their children. We agree. We're courageous enough to bring them into our site and love them."

OnPoint NYC's next goal is to open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and expand to more locations across New York City, in hopes of further reducing drug use on streets. 

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