Advancing a Coordinated Municipal-Level Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy
Special Projects Fund
November 13, 2014
New Yorkers who struggle with substance use disorders, especially those living in poverty, are often swept into the criminal justice system.
As a result, addiction goes unchecked, overdose rates continue to rise, racial disparities are amplified, and the criminal justice system is left handling an issue better suited for the public health sector. The Affordable Care Act creates opportunities to increase access to treatment for substance use disorders and establish a coordinated system of care. Additionally, New York State has launched a number of initiatives that support a coordinated public health approach. To support these efforts, NYSHealth awarded the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) a grant to develop a coordinated public health pilot approach to drug policy in Albany, which has high rates of residents incarcerated for drug crimes and drug-related hospitalizations.
Under this grant, DPA brought together key local stakeholders, including community members, multiple agencies and levels of government, and health providers to design and implement a more effective municipal drug policy. DPA provided policy expertise and serve as a convener, facilitator, and connector for this pilot program. Specifically, DPA partnered with The Center for Law and Justice to establish a drug policy workgroup. The workgroup produced a policy brief specific to Albany to inform activities and developed a concrete action plan that lays out the steps needed to move toward a coordinated public health approach. DPA ensured that these efforts will complement the State’s opiate use prevention strategies. DPA also worked to establish a program to divert people into services who would otherwise be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for nonviolent felony and misdemeanor drug law violations and other minor offenses related to substance use disorders. Lastly, the workgroup created a toolkit that other municipalities can use to develop a coordinated public health approach to drug policy. Albany is the first municipality in the country to have a formal, coordinated public health approach to drug policy and can serve as a model for replication elsewhere.