New York: NYC Council Holds Hearing On Bill To Reorient Drug Policy Toward Health, Safety

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A new New York City drug policy agency would focus as much on health as on policing under a proposal a lawmaker has introduced to shift how the nation's biggest city approaches illegal drug use.

The proposed legislation would create an office to coordinate drug strategy between dozens of city agencies and the community. It emphasizes evidence-based policy making to promote health and public safety and reduce the negative impact of past or current policies.

The drug strategy office would advise city leaders on lowering drug-related deaths and disease along with crime, reports Jennifer Peltz at ABC News. It also would coordinate answers to a problem that sometimes seems to pit one set of government objectives against another, supporters say.

WHAT: Press conference and rally in support of Intro 748, which would create an Office of Drug Strategy, to be immediately followed by a NYC Council hearing on the bill.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 23, 9:00 am EST

WHERE: Steps of New York City Hall

WHO: NYC elected officials and community groups representing public health, drug treatment, mental health, and legal aid providers, and individuals directly affected by current NYC drug policy.

SPEAKERS: Council Member Corey Johnson (chair, Committee on Health); Council Member Vanessa Gibson (chair, Committee on Public Safety); Council Member Andrew Cohen (chair, Committee on Mental Health); Shantae Owens, a member of VOCAL New York directly affected by current NYC drug policies; Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA); Kathleen Campbell of the Association of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Providers of NYS; Peter Schafer of the New York Academy of Medicine; Howard Josepher of Exponents, a leading drug treatment provider; Phillip Saperia of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies; and Renate Lunn of Five Boro Defenders.

BACKGROUND: As the New York City Council prepared to hold a hearing on legislation to reshape how the city deals with illegal drug use, advocates and Council Members prepared to pack the steps of City Hall in support. The bill would create an Office of Drug Strategy charged with coordinating policy and programmatic priorities across dozens of city agencies and collaborating with community organizations. While similar approaches exist in scores of Canadian and European cities, the New York City office would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

Previously covered in The New York Times, such an office would play a central role in unwinding failed “war on drugs” policies and instead steer all parts of NYC government that touch on drugs issues toward promoting access to care, treatment, and other evidence-based solutions. Crucially, the office would also be charged with identifying and ameliorating racial and other disparities that result from current drug policies.