HARLEM, N.Y. — At the end of February, state Sen. John Velis visited the East Harlem location of OnPoint NYC, a harm-reduction and overdose-prevention center in New York City that houses the first government-sanctioned, supervised consumption sites in the country. Velis, who was appointed Senate chair of the Legislature’s Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery Committee last month, said the goal of the visit was to get a better understanding of how the center operates.
“On all issues, no matter where I land, I have an obligation to fully analyze the issues and understand the different sides and viewpoints. That responsibility is heightened now that I have been appointed chairman,” he noted. “In 2021, there were more than 100,000 drug-overdose deaths in the United States, with a record-high 2,290 opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts alone. These numbers, and the increasing prevalence of fentanyl and synthetic opioids, have pushed many people to think outside the box about how to combat this epidemic, including the federal government. This debate is going to continue to come up, and, in my mind, it was critical that I see how these programs actually operate as I continue to do my due diligence on this issue.”
OnPoint NYC operates two harm-reduction and overdose-prevention sites in East Harlem and Washington Heights. While they have largely been in the media for their supervised-consumption sites, the majority of the facilities’ programs focus on harm reduction and social-support services.
“One of the things that really amazed me was the harm-reduction and wraparound services that OnPoint provides to the people who come in,” Velis said. “From linking people up with treatment and behavioral healthcare to providing drug-testing and laundry services, it was truly eye-opening to see the ways the facility connects people with resources.
“Many of the individuals who work at OnPoint have been personally impacted by the opioid epidemic and substance use in one way or another,” he continued. “They understand those life experiences and really care about these people coming in. They ask them how they are doing and help them with what’s going on in their lives, and it was transformative and incredible to see that type of compassionate and holistic care taking place.”
Velis visited OnPoint’s Holistic Health Center, Drug User Health HUB Clinic, Drop-in Center, and Overdose Prevention Center during the visit. Services that OnPoint provides include health and wellness services, including medical assessments and linkage to addiction-treatment programs and counseling; harm-reduction services, including syringe exchange and education counseling; public outreach and safety services, including syringe litter cleanup; and no-barrier, walk-in resources, including hot meals, bathrooms, acupuncture, and laundry.