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Free conference in Buffalo will explore effective responses to overdose in Western New York


Tue, Oct 30th 2018 03:35 pm
More than 150 advocates, service providers, those with lived experience, other experts will gather to discuss best practices for reducing harms associated with drug use, drug war; WNY gathering part of statewide conferences
On Friday, Nov. 2, more than 150 advocates, services providers, medical professionals and other experts will come together at a free daylong conference and strategy session in Buffalo. The 2018 WNY Harm Reduction Conference is designed to study why the drug war has been so unsuccessful and learn to utilize harm reduction models that are proven to save lives.
Opioid overdose rates have increased throughout New York since 2006, and overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death - with more people dying from overdose than car accidents and gun deaths combined. A press release stated, "In recent years, it has become clear that no communities are immune to the effects of drug use, and the presence of fentanyl in the drug supply has magnified the reality of drug overdose."
"As drug overdoses continue to take an overwhelming amount of lives, communities need strategies for addressing drug use that are responsive to unique regional needs, resources and challenges," said Kassandra Frederique, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. "That said, the evidence is clear about what works in communities of all sizes: centering public health, not criminalization. New York is in a unique position to step up and implement innovative drug policies rooted in science, compassion and public health, rather than punitive approaches. By bringing together such a wide array of experts, this conference promises to generate important solutions that can help save lives."
Panelists and attendees, including Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Bustein, will present on drug use in Western New York, generate best practices for reducing harms associated with drug use, address race and the drug war, and discuss the role of the criminal justice system in relation to drug use. Experts providing support will range from various backgrounds, including housing, medicine, harm reduction, law enforcement and policy.
"Harm reduction is at the core of the services we provide to the Western New York community, especially people who use drugs," said Emma Fabian, senior director of harm reduction at Evergreen Health, who will speak at the conference. "At this moment, when it's become clear that no community is immune to the impact of drug overdose, this conference offers the opportunity for us to add to the amount of people in our region who understand harm reduction and highlight our community partners who have been committed to it."
This event is particularly timely as there is momentum building in Ithaca and New York City for life-saving supervised consumption spaces. On the flip side, it comes on the heels of several senators from the region passing a slate of bills focused on expanding criminalization and enforcement strategies.
The Western New York conference is part of a series of conference around the state to address the overdose crisis. In May, hundreds met in Binghamton to study best practices for reducing harms associated with suburban and rural drug use.
The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading drug policy reform organization and fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. Evergreen is part of the Evergreen Association, a nonprofit, multiagency service group committed to fostering healthy communities throughout Western New York. Evergreen provides medical, pharmacy, housing, mental health, nutrition, transportation and syringe exchange services, as well as health education, health promotion and disease-specific prevention programs to more than 13,000 individuals within five facilities located in Buffalo and Jamestown.

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