As Part of HealingNYC, Health Department Expands Buprenorphine Treatment to Syringe Exchange Program in Staten Island

Staten Island syringe exchange program is the fourth citywide to offer buprenorphine

In 2017, over 14,000 New Yorkers received buprenorphine to treat their opioid addiction

Medications for addiction treatment, including buprenorphine, are the most effective
treatment for an opioid addiction; buprenorphine can also reduce the risk of overdose

July 25, 2018 –As part of HealingNYC, the Health Department announced today the expansion of buprenorphine treatment to the syringe exchange program (SEP) in Staten Island – Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI). Buprenorphine is now available at four SEPs citywide, which together serve more than 4,200 people who use drugs each year. Medications for addiction treatment, including buprenorphine, are the most effective way to treat opioid addiction and can reduce the risk of overdose. In 2017, over 14,000 New Yorkers received buprenorphine to treat their opioid addiction. Offering buprenorphine at SEPs allows people with opioid addiction to access treatment quickly and easily.

“Syringe exchange programs are a crucial support for people who use drugs, offering them a safe space to meet, learn about health services available to them, and get sterile syringes to avoid the spread of HIV and hepatitis C,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Buprenorphine treatment helps thousands of New Yorkers manage their opioid addiction, and this program will make it easier for people who use drugs to access this essential medication.”

“Community Health Action welcomes our partner, the City Health Department, to highlight the important work we are doing together to battle the opioid epidemic,” said Diane Arneth, Chief Community Services Officer, Brightpoint Health and Executive Director, Community Health Action of Staten Island. “Our program to provide buprenorphine treatment and other low threshold services for folks with the fewest resources and the most barriers speaks to our shared commitment to reduce overdoses and improve health outcomes for those in our care.”

“We are losing too many New Yorkers in this opioid epidemic, which is why I applaud the DOHMH for expanding its life-saving buprenorphine treatment program,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. “We are in a crisis and must work together. The Council is doing its part, including passing a package of bills last month to provide opioid and drug treatment and prevention services to New Yorkers.”

“For people struggling with substance use disorder, syringe exchange programs are one of the few trusted sites where they can seek support. I applaud the city for its work in broadening the scope of programming offered at these well-established sites, to include life-saving resources like buprenorphine,” said Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF- Manhattan), Chair  of the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “With continued expansion of proven harm reduction programming, we will continue to see improvements in public health, and we will turn the tide on this crisis.”

“I’ve already heard positive feedback from people in the bupe program who say they have more energy, better sleep, and some peace of mind after starting bupe,” said Rosemarie Azzarello, RN, Clinical Nurse, Buprenorphine Project at Community Health Action of Staten Island. “Over the last two years on our mobile health unit, I worked with people who use drugs. They care about themselves – they care about their lives beyond just their use. They’re mothers, they’re daughters and sons, and they ask about ways to be healthier. Sometimes it’s about bupe or changing their drug use, and sometimes it’s about their blood pressure or their diet. I get to know them over time and they trust us. I know my relationships with them make it easier and more likely that we can talk about bupe. The clients’ willingness to work together is helped by our belief in them – by who they are as people.”

In 2017, more than 1,900 prescribers wrote buprenorphine prescriptions in New York City. In order to prescribe buprenorphine, clinicians require additional training. Since May 2016, the Health Department has conducted 32 buprenorphine trainings, including ten on-site at NYC Health + Hospitals locations. As a result, an additional 1,058 prescribers across New York City are now trained to prescribe buprenorphine. Additionally, the Health Department ran its “Living Proof” public education campaign that featured New Yorkers who are treating their opioid addiction with buprenorphine or methadone medication to raise awareness about the effectiveness of treatment with medication.

In New York City, someone dies of a drug overdose every seven hours. In 2017, provisional data show there were 1,441 overdose deaths; opioids were involved in more than 80 percent of those deaths. The number of drug overdoses remains at epidemic levels as illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a potent opioid, continues to be present in the drug supply. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl has been found in heroin, cocaine as well as in benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers.

Treatment with buprenorphine or methadone is highly effective and can reduce the risk of overdose. Individuals seeking support or treatment for substance use issues for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. Free, confidential support is available at any hour of the day in over 200 languages.

If you witness an overdose, call 911 immediately.

About Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI)

CHASI provides care, support, treatment and tools to participants and communities impacted by opioid use. The organization offers an array of health programs across Staten Island, including addiction treatment, health screening and benefits assistance. CHASI’s SEP provides accessible and relevant care to people who use drugs, and it began offering buprenorphine treatment in June.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle:(347) 396-4177,
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov