New York Council supports drug overdose treatment in bars and restaurants

City council members want to enlist bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the fight against fatal drug overdoses by providing them with life-saving doses of Narcan and fentanyl test kits.

A bill creating the program – which would be run by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – authorized the council’s Mental Disorders and Addictions Committee on Tuesday.

Equipment that could test cocaine for fentanyl and treat overdoses would be given to anyone – customers, staff or bystanders – who overdosed on opioids.

“We are in the midst of a national public health crisis, and every four hours a New Yorker loses their life due to an opioid overdose,” said Councilwoman Linda Lee (D-Queens), chairman of the committee.

The bill would also require the Department of Health to provide free resources and training to staff at participating nightlife venues on how to use the kits.

The bill has the support of some business owners. Spencer Nelson, owner of 101 Wilson Bar in Bushwick, said he was no stranger to the realities of nightlife, including drug use.

“I’m a big supporter of Narcan,” Nelson said. “And if you’re doing something, you really have to be aware of how you’re doing it. If you are going to do this, know that things can go wrong and you must have things [in place] in case they do.

Drug overdose deaths in New York City hit a record 2,062 in 2020, according to city data. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be deadly in small doses and is often added to cocaine, accounted for 77% of those deaths.

Fentanyl overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18 to 45, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Social isolation, mental health issues and volatile drug supplies during the pandemic may have led to increased drug use and overdose deaths, health experts say.

Councilman Chi Ossé (D-Brooklyn), sponsor of the bill, said a friend of his died of an overdose last year.

“I thank each and every one of you for this bill because I know my friend would still be alive here today, if a bill like this were here and passed,” he said. .

Mitch Rosenthal, president of the Rosenthal Center for Addiction Studies, supported the bill, but said it and other city efforts — such as safe injection sites — should drive addicts to addiction programs. treatment.

“Anything that will prevent deaths, even temporarily, is very helpful,” Rosenthal said. “But it would be more useful if these interventions were then gateways, pathways and bridges to treatment…It’s not bad, but it’s not balanced.”

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