Written by: Charles and Randy Fisher @HHSYC
May 2, 2013

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Special thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and New York Academy of Medicine

This 2 part series asks the question—are we losing the “War on Drugs?” It costs an estimated $26 billion a year to fund this war. The Drug Policy Alliance, the New York Academy of Medicine and many others believe we have failed for decades. A new comprehensive report which offers a wide range of recommendations to implement a public health-based approach to solve the nation’s drug problem was released and we think you will be enlightened by its findings. The report is being issued almost 40 years to the day after Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the historic Rockefeller Drug Laws, which exemplified the “lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key” approach that was adopted nationwide and has been the key policy change that has led to the mass incarceration of over 2 million citizens. Below is information published by the Drug Policy Alliance about the report and how you can be a part of the solution and not the problem regarding the “War on Drugs.”


I’m writing with 2 brief, important updates about ending the war on drugs in New York.

1. Major new report on drug policy in NY

On Tuesday DPA, in partnership with The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), issued a major new report: Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy. Working with hundreds of New Yorkers, we examined New York’s current drug policies and reimagined how those policies could realize better health and public safety outcomes through a more coordinated, public health-oriented approach based on the 4 pillars of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and public safety. Check out the report and let us know what you think.

2. Conference on drug policy – Buffalo, NY — May 2-3

We’re headed to Buffalo! On May 2nd and 3rd, join DPA and The Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy at the University of Buffalo School of Law, along with our sponsors and partners for this important conference: Leading the Way: Toward a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York.

Nearly 40 years after passage of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the war on drugs continues in NY. Join speakers from around NY, across the U.S., and from Canada and Portugal, as we explore how we can end the war on drugs and devise a new approach. Conference program and list of all the details are online: http://bit.ly/leading-the-way. Feel free to contact me with any questions. I hope to see you in Buffalo!

The report mentioned above includes a detailed list of recommendations for action that will move New York State and New York City from a criminalization to a public health and safety approach to drug policy. The New York Academy of Medicine advances the health of people living in cities. An independent organization since 1847, NYAM addresses the health challenges facing the world’s urban populations through interdisciplinary approaches to policy leadership, innovative research, evaluation, education, and community engagement. For more information please visit www.nyam.org. The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation’s leading organization working to promote drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. For more information, please visit www.drugpolicy.org.

The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) are pleased to present this Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy. DPA and NYAM are organizations with very different missions and histories but a shared understanding that New York’s current policy approach to drugs is failing. We joined together to examine New York’s current drug policies and how those policies could realize better health and public safety outcomes through a more coordinated, public health-oriented approach based on the 4 pillars model of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and public safety. Believing that good public policies should be developed in collaboration with those directly affected by them, we spent over a year holding community consultations across the state asking New York residents how drug use and drug policies affected them and their neighborhoods and what should be done to move the state forward. We also met with experts, policymakers, and service providers and conducted an extensive review of the literature. This Blueprint is the result of these research activities.

The Blueprint offers a series of detailed recommendations. Overall, we call for strong leadership at the state and local level to align our policies across agencies and sectors with the goal of improving the health and safety of our communities. To this end, we recommend that the Governor of New York convene a multi-agency task force. It should include all of the state agencies that serve people who use drugs; state agencies involved in enforcing current drug laws; communities most affected by drug use; a variety of human service providers; community members, including people in recovery, people who currently use drugs, and formerly incarcerated people; and experts.

We recommend that the task force be chaired by a senior member of the Governor’s office and that it focus its attention on assessing and evaluating all state agency drug policies and programs to work toward their alignment. To be effective, the task force must include meaningful representation from and collaboration with New York City officials. We also recommend that New York City should, because of the size of its population, the complexity of its own agencies and programs, and its unique drug policy environment, convene its own multiagency, cross-sectoral mechanism to examine city-level policies. We recommend that these entities define their charges broadly, recognizing that the state and the city’s health reform efforts, economic and community development, infrastructure investments, and educational programs, as well as more traditional health and social services, all have a role to play in preventing harmful drug use, helping individuals and families involved with drugs, and strengthening our communities.

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