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Addiction Treatment Advocates Push For Final Prevention Bill Approval On Overdose Awareness Day

Addiction treatment supporters gather Tuesday to urge Gov. Hochul to sign a package of bills aimed at preventing overdoses.
Chris Bolt
Addiction treatment supporters gather Tuesday to urge Gov. Hochul to sign a package of bills aimed at preventing overdoses. Survivor Luz Rosario is second from left.

A coalition of Syracuse-area groups marked the occasion of Overdose Awareness Day Tuesday by calling on Governor Hochul to sign a package of bills aimed at preventing overdoses. Campaigns Coordinator with VOCAL New York Breyana Clark says the state has historically prioritized criminalization over public health and harm reduction. She says 80 percent of people in prisons and jails have a substance use disorder, and one measure would mandate medication assisted treatment for inmates.

"What happens is a lot of people experience fatal withdrawal, or they will come out and experience extreme overdoses because their tolerance wasn't weaned; it was cut cold turkey. So if they come out, they overdose because now they have a different tolerance."

Clark says overdose is the leading cause of death for those with a substance use disorder following their release. Another measure awaiting the governor’s signature would decriminalize syringe possession. Current law allows an arrest simply for possessing syringes. Ronald Dennis with the FACES program at Syracuse Community Connections says needle exchange programs are critical to reducing HIV and hepatitis C infections among drug users. He’s also trained to use NARCAN, the overdose prevention drug.

"I saved two lives with NARCAN. It's what I enjoy doing. I've known three people since Saturday who overdosed on heroin. It's because they're [drug dealers] are putting fentanyl in it, and a lot of people don't know that. When do we say enough is enough."

Dennis says drugs will always be here, but if the community steps up, the overdose numbers can be brought down. Last year alone, the state lost more than five thousand lives to preventable overdose deaths. Luz Rosario was almost one of them.

"I overdosed and died for two minutes in the hospital. When they brought me in the hospital, there were six doctors, and one of them said, 'why did you do this? You're so pretty. You killed yourself.' I couldn't talk, I stayed for days. I couldn't move might right side."

Rosario says she’s witnessed many others die of an overdose in the streets.

Senators Rachel May and John Mannion are among those urging Governor Hochul to sign the overdose prevention package in her first 45 days in office.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.