Drastic drop in NYC’s drug treatment capacities by 19% of 11578 person per day in 10 years

Our newly received FOIL data indicates that amidst the opioid epidemic, NYC has reduced the average daily number of patients treated for drug addiction by 19% or 11578 patients a day! The most expensive, but most effective form of treatment, residential treatment was reduced by 35%, or 1537 beds. It is not surprising that complaints of open-air drug use in NYC increased and adult-only homeless shelters became too full since patients are deprived of proper medical care.

We hope patients advocacy groups such as VOCAL and Drug Policy Alliance would help support reversal of these services for patients who need help.

Incidentally, this week, Governor Hocul signed a new bill, reported by City Limits, to impose better governance on the closure of medical facilities in NYC, acknowledging such mismanagement we observed in our FOIL data. Hopefully, this law will help re-instate some of the lost drug treatment facilities badly needed by patients in Brooklyn, Queen and the Bronx.

More findings from our data can be found below:

23 districts saw the loss of more than 200 patients, amongst them, 3 districts saw  losses of more than 1000 patients, which are Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights and  Jamaica. Only 3 districts saw increases of more than 200 patients: East New York,  New Hyde Park Queens, and Bronx Park South. Other notable districts with loss of  capacities are Murray Hill, Long Island City, Midtown South, Prospect Leffert Gardens,  Financial District. 

Breakdown by program types shows these changes. 

  • 35% drop in residential program or 1537 capacities drop, mostly in Queens and  Brooklyn. 
  • 26% drop in outpatient capacities or 5191 patients with most drop from Bronx and  Brooklyn 
  • 14% Opioid Treatment Program or 4609 capacities, mostly from Brooklyn and  Queens 

[data source: FOIL data 2021 from OASAS]

A series of news coverage of GHC after the safe injection site was installed in Dec 2021

Despite our years of complaints about the excessive number of drug treatment programs and harm reduction programs in Harlem, the government doubled down and added the Nation’s first safe injection site in Harlem on 126th Street without community inputs. We participated in a protest for Fair Share (see more about the protest in this page and our video) and below are some of the ensuing news coverage related to the topic:

1. WNYC interviewed GHC members during the protest:

https://www.wnyc.org/story/harlem-residents-push-back-against-opioid-clinics-after-data-shows-most-are-used-non-residents/

2. PBS News Hour coverage of site injection site and the issue of oversaturation

3. Gothamist in-depth coverage of the over-saturation conditions in Harlem

https://gothamist.com/news/harlem-residents-protest-against-opioid-clinics-after-data-shows-most-are-used-non-residents

4. Black News Channel’s interview of our founder

5. CBS Interviewed our founder

https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2021/12/11/protest-against-supervised-injection-centers-in-east-harlem/?amp

6. NY Post’s report on the rally. Sadly, the Post distorted our intent in the title. We protested to ask for Fair Share. The protest does not target the safe injection site.

https://nypost.com/2021/12/11/hundreharlem-residents-rally-against-new-legal-shooting-gallery-in-neighborhoodds-rally-against-drug-programs-in-harlem/

7. Urban Omnibus issued a detailed research article about the conditions in Harlem

https://urbanomnibus.net/2021/12/unjust-treatment/?printpage=true

8. Patch reports first safe injection site in East Harlem and interviewed our Founder

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/supervised-injection-site-opens-in-harlem-in-historic-move/ar-AARj3w7

9. Audacy.com reports Al Sharpton’s concerns of oversaturation of Harlem

https://www.audacy.com/1010wins/news/local/rev-al-sharptons-group-to-protest-de-blasios-safe-injection-sites-we-cannot-be-complacent

10. New York Times’ first reporting of the safe injection site quoting our members:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/30/nyregion/supervised-injection-sites-nyc.html

11. Washington Post’s coverage quoting our members:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/11/30/drugs-supervised-consumption/

Documentary of conditions in Harlem

A film crew commissioned by CGTN channel interviewed GHC and MMPCIA to understand the conditions in Harlem

Greater Harlem Coalition’s response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement establishing supervised consumption sites in East Harlem and Washington Heights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2021

Contact: Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, 917-674-3313, syderia@aol.com

It is not for Greater Harlem Coalition (GHC) to comment on which form of harm reduction programs in Harlem best help patients with substance dependency recovery, be it methadone clinics, needle exchanges, or supervised consumption sites.

What is outrageous to GHC is that the government is doubling down on its inequitable history of over-concentrating drug treatment and harm reduction programs in Harlem despite years of community objections. The decades-long practice of placing socially burdensome municipal services in this black and brown neighborhood has led to nearly 20% of the city’s drug treatment facilities being located in East and Central Harlem, a small district with only 3.5% of NYC’s population. 

This concentration has drawn drug dealers to the district, creating a range of quality-of-life issues. Adding a supervised injection site in Harlem, and not other districts, will only exacerbate the problem. Harlem residents, our children and our minority-owned small businesses will again bear the costs that come with excessive concentration of these programs.  At the core, disproportionately packing Harlem with these programs constitutes a violation of our children and families’ civil rights to a healthful living environment. Before considering opening a supervised consumption site as a solution of the quality of life issues in Harlem, the city and the state must first reduce the excessive concentration of harm reduction programs in Harlem and add high quality drug treatment programs in other parts of New York that have been defunded by the previous New York Governor.

To be clear, GHC supports small scale, effective harm reduction programs located throughout all New York City neighborhoods. However, we strongly object to continually packing these facilities into Harlem when addiction transcends race, class, and geography. 

In New York City, there are numerous other districts with similar or higher overdose rates, but have fewer such programs. There are several districts with only slightly lower overdose rates, but have no drug treatment programs at all. Data obtained through FOIL has shown that although Manhattan has about 20% of the city’s population, 40% of the city’s drug treatment capacity certified by OASAS (Office of Addiction Services and Support) is located in Manhattan, and half of that is in East and Central Harlem. To see the underlying data, refer to the letter sent to OASAS here.

One can only explain this continuous pattern of unfair distribution of municipal facilities as a perpetuation of the systems of oppression that many local, state and national politicians purport to be fighting.  

Lastly, the siting of the Nation’s first formal supervised consumpiton site without public consultation with Harlem’s residents is an in-your-face demonstration of how the political establishment in New York City continues to ignore the opinions of communities of color for the benefit of wealthier and often whiter neighborhoods. (see letter from community board 11)

The Greater Harlem Coalition, representing 120+ local Harlem organizations, requests that the mayor and the governor reduce the capacity of drug treatment programs in Harlem in a way that is consistent with the fair share principle as drafted by the city council in 2017. The redistribution would greatly help improve the quality of life issues in Harlem and improve accessibility of healthcare for all patients in New York City.

We call on our elected officials to join us in asking the mayor and the governor to take immediate actions.

###

The Greater Harlem Coalition is comprised of the following tenant groups, block associations,  faith-based organizations, schools, small businesses, cultural institutions, and not-for-profits in Harlem & East Harlem. Visit us at greaterharlem.nyc and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

BLOCK ASSOCIATIONS 

100 Block Association of West 118th Street 100-168 West 121st Street Resident Block  Association 
118 Street Block Association 
120th Street Block Association 
124 East 117th Street Tenants Association  
128th Street Block Association 
1775 Houses Tenants Association 97-98 Lexington & Park Ave. Neighbors A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance 
A.K. Houses Tenants Association 
Dorrence Brooks Property Owners & Residents Association 
LenoxFive 127th Street Block Association 
Mirada Home Owners Association
Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association 
Neighbors United of West 132nd Street  Block Association 
New 123rd Street Block Association (Lenox  - 7th) 
Sugar Hill Concerned Neighbors Group 
West 119th Block Association 
West 121st Street Block Association 
West Graham Court Residents Council 
Hamilton Terrace Block Association 
Harlem Neighborhood Block Association 
Lenox to 5th 124th Street Block Association
126th Street Block Association West 130th Street Homeowners Association West 132nd Street Block Association West 135th Street Block Association West 136th Street Block Association
The Melrose Committee for Change 
Harlem East Block Association 
Madison Avenue HDFC 
181 East 119th Street Tenants Association 
Central Park North Block Association

SMALL BUSINESSES 
 
314 - Pizza, Pasta & Wine Bar 
Chaiwali 
Chocolat Restaurant & Bar 
Columbus Distributors 
Compass Realty 
DR3J Consultants 
Edward Jones 
Elaine Perry Associates 
Eye Cycle 
Freeland Liqour 
Gastiaburo + Stella Real Estate 
Ginjan Cafe 
Hakimian Organization 
Halstead Manhattan 
Harlem Lofts 
Harlem Properties Inc. 
Harlem Shake 
Harlem Wine Gallery 
HarlemHome 
HarlemHoopz 
Il Cafe Latte 1 
Il Cafe Latte 2 
Indian Summer Harlem 
Jacqueline Allmond Cuisine INC Le Petit Parisien 
Lido 
Malcolm Pharmacy 
Paris Blues Jazz Club 
R. Kenyatta Punter and Associates Rubys Vintage 
SottoCasa Pizzeria 
T.H.E. Works 
Upholstery Lab 
Uptown Townhouse 
Valeries Signature Salon 
Wynn Optics 
USA Deli & Grocery 
MoHo Dance 
Harlem American 
Virgo Hardware 
Clay 
Asberry and Associates, LLC 
D and D Enterprise 
CentralCasting Solutions LLC 
Pativity, LLC 
Covington Realty Services 
Super Nice Coffee and Bakery 
Gold Appraisal 
Carthage Advisors 
Experience Harlem 
L.A. Sweets NY 
Nouvelle Home Improvements 
Space Management Design 
H M Art And Home Decor 
The Monkey Cup 
  
NOT FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS 
Ask Ascend Virtual Assistance 
Advocates 4 The Community 
ATAPE Group, LLC 
CIVITAS 
Ephesus SDA Church 
Friendly Hands Ministry 
Friends of the Harriett Tubman Monument Future Giants Organization 
Greater Calvary Baptist Church 
Harlem Arts Foundation 
Harlem Business Alliance 
Harlem Lacrosse 
Harlem Park to Park 
MXB United 
New York Council for Housing Development  Fund Companies, Inc. 
Open Hands Legal Services 
Progressives Educating New Yorkers, Inc. Sayers and Doers 
Silicon Harlem 
Union Settlement House 
United New Church of Christ 
Uptown Democratic Club 
StreetSquash 
Silent Procession Nyc4pr 
AAPI for Change 
Harlem Link Charter School 

WCBS Opioid Injection Site Coverage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A New York City proposal to curb drug-related deaths would allow drug use at select overdose prevention sites.

One of the main areas of interest is Harlem, but neighbors believe encouraging injections will only make the problem worse.

Syderia Asberry-Chresfield has lived in her Harlem brownstone for more than 30 years. These days, she is considering leaving for good, as drugs inundate her neighborhood.

“We have 22 schools within a two block radius of these methadone clinics,” Asberry-Chresfield said. “This is normalizing behavior for our children. There’s nothing normal about this.”

Co-founder of the Greater Harlem Coalition, Asberry-Chresfield is on a mission to reduce the number of treatment facilities in the area. She says the programs are bringing users, and their dealers, from other areas.

But according to Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, New York City’s Executive Deputy Commissioner of Mental Hygiene, more services are the answer, in the form of overdose prevention sites, where users can inject their drugs under nurse supervision.

“This is bringing people inside, giving them a safe environment and then linking them to other treatment,” said Cunningham. “Treating people with dignity and respect, reducing their harms and then ultimately linking them to care.”

New York City reports that, in 2020, more people died from overdoses than any other year in history. January to September of last year saw nearly the same death toll as all of 2019.

The areas with the highest overdose rates were Harlem, the South Bronx and Staten Island

“COVID has made many things worse, including overdose deaths… we know that people were isolated and so that if people did overdose, there was nobody around them to give them Naloxone and call 911. We also know that people’s mental health symptoms got worse,” Cunningham said.

But Asberry-Chresfield saw something else happen, too.

“While we were inside,” she said, “everybody else was outside. And they weren’t just outside. They were outside claiming their territory.”

Asberry-Chresfield says increased police patrols have had minimal effect, because laws are not strict enough on drug dealers.

As New York City weighs whether overdose prevention sites would help clean up the streets, decisionmakers are also weighing their legality.

“It’s similar to the way that cannabis remains illegal, right? And in this country, obviously, the states, you know, local authorities have moved forward because of the need,” Cunningham said. “And so we see that sort of similarly in terms of the need has never been greater than it is now. People are dying. We have to do something.”

“I totally get it,” said Asberry-Chresfield. “And a friend of mine just lost her daughter, and I went to the funeral over the weekend and it was terrible. And I totally understand… but it’s just not the answer.”

The city’s still exploring the best option for combatting the overdose crisis and various impacts on communities such as Harlem. The mayor says he wants buy-in from the neighborhoods being considered before any overdose prevention site opens.

OASAS’s Opioid Treatment Program Locations’ Concordance with Racist Redlining Maps

To see the presentation by Shawn Hill at the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Developing Evidence-Based Drug Policy Conference (October 14, 2021) see:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14DyAjBrGWu8a9EoEP25N3B9J8gCtzsJUV2lYPjJ9Jyc/edit?usp=sharing

or watch the recording of the presentation:

A Letter to AG James (October 2021)

Attorney General James,

We understand that your office will play an important role in deciding how the opioid settlement money should be spent.  As residents of Harlem (124th between Adam Clayton Powell and Lenox), we have experienced an intense degradation in the quality of life in the neighborhood.  The increased draw of vulnerable people to the high-density methadone clinics has created a massive pool of vulnerable people for drug dealers to prey upon.  In addition to the vulnerable population, the dealers attract addicts who are not seeking help, and the problem is exacerbated.  Drug deals are done in the open, drug use is in the open, and the resulting loitering has led to a level of filth from trash, urination, defecation, and rat infestations that we have only ever witnessed in the most desperate parts of 3rd world countries.  Given the over-saturation of methadone clinics in Harlem (19% of the city’s methadone clinics are located in Harlem; 75% of the patients commute in from as far away as Staten Island), we would like to see several things happen with the settlement money.  

First, new smaller facilities should be opened elsewhere in the city to allow patients the support they need closer to home.  Simultaneously, the concentration of methadone clinics should be reduced by at least two thirds in order to more appropriately align with the actual local need.  Moreover, the capacity of individual clinics should be cut way down so that no one location provides a rich pool of targets for drug dealers.

Second, rather than offering methadone, the remaining clinics should offer treatments like naltrexone or buprenorphine that don’t require patients to travel to clinics on a daily basis for treatment.  Taking it a step further, methadone should be offered only as a last resort to avoid building up a concentration of vulnerable people upon whom drug dealers prey.

Third, there should be money invested in a professional support team for and daily cleaning of the 125th St & Lenox corridor.  Lenox between 123rd and 126th is a safety and hygiene hazard.  The local community has essentially been abandoned to deal with a density of mental health and addiction patients who pose a threat at all hours of the day and who leave trash everywhere.

Thank you for your consideration,

Kate and Dustin Rubenstein

Letter to AG James on Use of Opioid Settlement Funds (October 2021)

Dear Attorney General James.

I am writing to add my voice to the many you have heard asking you to use funds from the opioid settlement to address the problem of disproportionate distribution of drug treatment centers that is so negatively affecting the already vulnerable neighborhood of Harlem. 

As you know, over 75% of the people being treated in Harlem commute (6 days a week) from other areas that do not provide access to treatment. This is detrimental to health outcomes for the patients and to the quality of life in our neighborhood. And the problem keeps getting worse, with providers continuing to expand facilities and establish new ones, all in this same area. I have lived here only 10 years, but even in that short time, there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of life.

The funds could be used to redestribute drug treatment facilities more appropriately and constructively. An independent committee that evaluates density of service vs. density of LOCAL need could be established to pinpoint which areas are underserved (Staten Island, for example), and suggest capacities for those. These numbers could then be used to determine whether a provider is granted permission to expand or establish new facilities in any given area, and to move facilities out of places where they are excessive. Financial incentives could be offered to offset the additional cost to providers of moving facilities into new and, likely, more expensive areas, including legal fees to respond to NIMBY lawsuits.

Funds could also be used to help patients afford less burdensome alternatives to methadone.

Finally, as we wait for the density to decrease through these measures, funds could be used to increase sanitation, including more trash cans and more frequent pick-up, and to create a team of mobile social workers and drug counselors, who could walk the areas around the treatment centers to offer follow-up help to patients, as well as to the un-treated addicts who flock here to buy the drugs that are so readily available on the street  —  dealers know where the facilities are and come here to prey on this concentration of the vulnerable population of patients who are trying to get clean.

Thank you for all you do!

Best,

Kate Neuman

https://ag.ny.gov/livestream/attorney-general-james-continues-statewide-healny-tour-deliver-money-cities-and-7

Letter to NY Attorney General James – October 2021

Dear Attorney James,

I would like to start by saying that you are a hero at a time when heroes are so desperately needed.  I support you making citizens responsible for paying their fair share of taxes, even when these powerful individuals try to hide behind organizations.  Thank you for pursuing accountability for what is fair and just.  I really appreciate and admire having the buck stop here.

The reason I am writing you today is that my neighborhood, Harlem, needs your support.  I have been living in Harlem for 16 years and am raising my two children 14 and 11 here.  For the last 5 years or so things have been getting worse.  Stepping around people under scaffolding while they’re ‘waiting for their man’ on our way to the morning school bus.  Being careful of certain corners, deli’s where dealers are hanging out.  Planning paths to and from my house that feel safe.  When I was enlightened a few years ago to the fact that Harlem contains an overabundance of rehabilitation clinics it was like an epiphany.  Suddenly this pressure and fear I was experiencing at almost every corner of my neighborhood had a reason.  I know that these clinics support much more rehabilitation than just Harlem residents.  Approximately 3 out of every 4 people seeking support from these clinics commutes to my neighborhood for these services.  That brings a lot of strangers and a lot of struggling strangers to my community.  Along with individuals seeking treatment, this also brings much more drug dealing commerce to my local community.   Rehabilitation is a difficult business, but Harlem is being set up to fail.  Rehabilitation needs community effort and accountability.  Local people need to support their own neighbors and help lift them up.  That’s what makes a community.  Westchester needs to support their own population of struggling users and so does Park Avenue.  The people who call Park Slope home need to have a place to treat their local population struggling with drugs.  One needs local, community support and LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY to help rehabilitate local people, your neighbors.  Harlem cannot and should not be expected to support the drugs struggles of this entire city and beyond.

Between Wednesday, October 6th and Thursday, October 14th at least five children were shot within blocks from my house.  Children.  All of them under 18.  I have heard it is probably gang, probably drug related.  I guess that means targeted.  I guess that means I can take a deep breath and hope my children don’t get caught in the crossfire as I walk through this war zone.  These children need opportunities outside of the drug trade.  Please help us help Harlem be the vibrant, colorful, diverse and SAFE community for all of its taxpaying residents.
Please let me know how I can support these efforts.

Sally Brackett

Letter Sent to The Commissioner of OASAS (April 27, 2021)