Letter to Legislators in Support of Syringe Access Bill

The below letter — signed by 150+ and counting public health experts, healthcare providers, clinicians, & recovery advocates — was sent to New Jersey legislators in support of legislation to expand syringe access.

Open Letter to Legislators

Dear New Jersey Legislators:
We are losing a generation of loved ones and family members to the overdose crisis. In 2021, New Jersey is on track to lose more people to overdose deaths than ever previously recorded, with overdose death rates rising fastest among Black and Hispanic/Latinx residents.
New Jersey’s overdose crisis compounds the existing HIV and Hepatitis C burdens borne by residents, and is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, people living with a substance use disorder are more likely to become ill and die from COVID-19, with Black residents living with an opioid use disorder most harmed by the pandemic.
Fortunately, the New Jersey State Legislature is currently considering legislation to remove barriers to syringe access (S-3009/A-4846), decriminalize syringe possession (S-3493/A-5458), and save lives.
We urge you to change New Jersey’s restrictive laws by passing this legislation — immediately and with the urgency that residents at-risk of overdose deserve.
As public health experts, clinical providers, and recovery advocates, we know that substance use is a public health issue and that syringe access programs are one of the best healthcare tools we have to end the overdose crisis.
Decades of research show that syringe access programs decrease the harms related to substance use while not increasing violence, crime, or substance use itself. People who access syringe services also get access to HIV testing, on-site medical advice and referrals, food, hygiene products, medications for opioid use disorder like buprenorphine, recovery support, and more.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when people have access to a syringe access program they are:
  • Less likely to die from an opioid-related overdose
  • Five times more likely to stop substance use that causes them problems
  • Three times more likely to stop substance use altogether
  • 50 percent less likely to acquire HIV and Hepatitis C
Despite the clear benefits of syringe access programs, New Jersey has woefully underutilized the lifesaving public health tool for decades. Restrictive syringe access laws are an undue and discriminatory barrier to healthcare for our patients, clients, and neighbors. We do not require a municipal ordinance for pharmacies, doctor’s offices, or methadone clinics — but we put this additional (and discriminatory) hurdle in front of lifesaving syringe access services.
The consequences of New Jersey’s restrictive laws are deadly. New Jersey only has seven syringe access programs serving a state of over nine million residents across 565 municipalities. Kentucky has over 20 times as many syringe services per capita as New Jersey, and our law is more restrictive than those of North Carolina, Tennessee, or Georgia.
The evidence is clear: syringe services work. Syringe access programs increase safety and wellbeing for individuals and our communities while reducing burdens on our first responder and healthcare systems. Arguments against the programs, unfortunately, are rooted in stigma and discrimination, not public health. Like the Star-Ledger editorial board, we agree that “opposition to harm reduction centers does not hold up.”
As public health experts, healthcare providers, recovery advocates, and clinicians who have vowed to do no harm to our patients, it is our responsibility to support legislation to remove restrictive barriers to syringe access (S-3009/A-4847 and S-3493/A-5458) and advocate for basic healthcare access for all people who use drugs and people living with a substance use disorder.
Every day we wait, our patients, loved ones, and communities are suffering needlessly. Take action today to prevent overdose deaths and save lives.

Signatories

Michelle Adyniec, RN, BSN
RN Clinical Manager
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Kavya Aggarwal
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Taylor Aguiar
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Kathy Ahern-O’Brien
Executive Director
Hyacinth AIDS Foundation

Alexandra Altamura
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Lillie Armstrong
Senior Manager, Drug User Health
NASTAD

Yuliza Avelar
MSW Candidate
Rutgers University

Bre Azañedo
Harm Reductionist & HIV Specialist
BLM Paterson

Quincy B., MSW, DSW, CFSW

Soumaya Bahlouli
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Elizabeth Burke Beaty, CPRS
Founding Executive Director
Sea Change Recovery Community Organization

Soumitra Bhuyan
Assistant Professor
Rutgers University

Nicole Bixler, LCSW, LCADC
President
Operation In My Back Yard

Ricky Bluthenthal, PhD
Associate Dean of Social Justice
Keck School of Medicine

Khoa Boi
Community Health Educator
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Emily Bosk, CSW
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Rutgers University

Ya’Shauna Bosley
Community Health Worker
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Dorothy Bowker, LPC
Coordinator, Atlantic County Overdose Fatality Review Team
Atlantic Prevention Resources

Alyssa Brantley, CHES
HIV Educator & Counselor
Ocean County Health Department

Erica Braun
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Madeline Breda
Medical Student

Raina Brown, MPH

Ethan Burg
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Chelsea Cain, MA
Visiting Professor of Criminology
The College of New Jersey

Rev. J. Amos Caley, MSW, M.Div
Prison & Drug Policy Senior Fellow
Salvation and Social Justice

Shai Cali
Psychotherapist

Michele Calvo, MPH
Public Health Expert & Person in Recovery

Elissa Campanella
Analyst
New Jersey Organizing Project

Marquis Chandler, PhD
Assistant Professor
Long Island University

Martha Chavis
CEO & President
Camden Area Health Education Center

Clement Chen, PharmD, BCPS

Renee Cirillo
Public Health Program Specialist

Jenny Conger, LCSW, LCAC, CCS
Social Worker

Kiara Cruz
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Becky Cocito, LSW
Program Manager
Northern NJ MAT Center of Excellence

Natalia Dafonte, EMT
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Emily Davidson
Medical Student
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Corey Davis, JD, MSPH

Eliezer Defranca, LCSW
Therapist

Kimya Nuru Dennis, PhD
Health Equity Educator & Trainer
365 Diversity

Madeline Desrosiers, CPRS
Prevention Links

Jerry C. Dillard, CSW, CAS, NCAPS-II, NFAS
Executive Director & CEO
The Coalition on AIDS in Passaic County (CAPCO) Resource Center

Kelly K. Dineen, RN, JD, PhD
Associate Professor
Creighton University

Denise Donnelly
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Jennifer Dunkle, PhD
Assistant Professor of Social Work
Stockton University

Jessica Dunlap, MSW

Janet Duran
Co-Founder
New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance

Frederick Durant
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Colin Dwyer
Executive Director
Opioid Crisis Response Fund

Michael Enich
MD/PhD Candidate
Rutgers University

Betsey Erbaugh, PhD
Associate Professor
Stockton University

Jeffrey A. Feldman, MSW, LSW
Director, Advocacy & Communications
National Association of Social Workers – New Jersey Chapter

Robert I. Field, JD, MPH, PhD
Professor
Drexel University – Thomas R. Kline School of Law & Dornsife School of Public Health

Brooke Finnerty
Community Health Educator
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Ilona Fishkin
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Linda Flint LCSW, LCADC
Clinical Supervisor
Richard Hall Community Mental Health & Wellness Center

Dayna Fondell, RN, MSN
Associate Director of Clinical Redesign Initiatives
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Leo Gefter
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian Medical School

Sandy Gibson, PhD, LCSW, LCADC
Professor of Counselor Education
The College of New Jersey

Drew Gibson, MSW
Senior Policy Manager for HIV & Harm Reduction
AIDS United

Cynthia Golembeski, MPH
Vice President, New Jersey Public Health Association
Health Policy Research Scholar, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Kim Govak, National CPRS
Program Director
Center for Family Services Living Proof Recovery

Rachel Graves, MD
Resident Physician
University of Pennsylvania

Anthony C. Gray Jr.
Direct Services Coordinator
New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition

Laurie Ann Greene, PhD
Professor of Anthropology
Stockton University

Gina Grosso, LSW

Gretchen Halfpenny, MSW
Facilitator, Overdose Fatality Review Team
Atlantic Prevention Resources

Tabitha Handelong, LSW
Substance Use Disorder Therapist
Angels In Motion

Carol Harney
CEO
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Rachel Haroz, MD
Physician

Mark Hewett
Community Health Educator
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Jessica Hines
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Ella Hopkins, CPRS
Program Coordinator
Center for Family Services

Amy Hu, PharmD
Pharmacist

Mariel S. Hufnagel
Founder & Principal
Hufnagel Holistic Solutions

Jordan Intrator
Medical Student

Gracie Jenkins
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Andrea M. Jones, MSN, RNC-NIC, RRT-NPS
Harm Reduction Nurse
Gloucester County Health Department

Brianna Jones
Housing Navigator
Senior Citizens United Community Services

T. Stephen Jones, MD
Retired Public Health Physician

Eileen Kaplan
Recovery Advocate

Marianne Kehoe, LCSW, M.Div

DiAnne Kelly
Regional Director of Outreach Services
Helping Hand Behavioral Health

Claire Marie Kemp
Harm Reduction Volunteer & Pre-Medical Student

Andrew Kim, MSW, LSW
Graduate Assistant
Rutgers University

Beryl Koblin, PhD
Infectious Disease Epidemiologist
Independent Consultant

Simran Kripalani
Medical Student
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Aaron Kucharski
Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator
New Jersey – Recovery Advocacy Project

Steven Landers, MD, MPH
President and CEO
Visiting Nurse Association Health Group

Greg Langan, LSW, MPH
Program Director
South Jersey AIDS Education Training Center

Erica LaRocca
Program Assistant for Clinical Redesign Initiatives
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Lindsay LaSalle, JD
Managing Director, Policy
Drug Policy Alliance

Antonia Lewis
Community Health Strategist
National Network of Public Health Institutes

Amy Lieberman, JD
Harm Reduction Attorney

Nathan Wong Link
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Rutgers University

Jamey Lister, PhD, MSW
Assistant Professor
Rutgers University School of Social Work

Robert Lord- Schell
Team Leader
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Nicholas Lozano
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Anais Mahone, LCSW

Christine Malalis, CPRS
Peer Support Specialist
Rutgers University
Emilie Mankopf
Project Coordinator
Rutgers University School of Social Work

Lauren Manley
MSW Candidate
Rutgers University

Brooke Mauriello
Data Manager of Overdose Fatality Review Team
Atlantic Prevention Resources

Diana R. McCague
Harm Reduction Expert

Brian McGovern
CEO
NJCRI

Jenna Mellor, MPA
Executive Director
New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition

Alicia Mendez, MSW, PhD Candidate
Project Director
Rutgers University

Theresa Messineo, LCSW, LCCADC, CCS, CCTP
Clinical Supervisor
Resa Treatment Center

Jennifer Miles
Postdoctoral Associate
Rutgers University

Michael B. Mitchell, MA, PhD Candidate
Assistant Professor of African American Studies & Criminology
The College of New Jersey

Stephanie Morano-Weaver, MPH, CPH
Manager of Community & Patient Engagement
Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers

Naima Morrison, MSW
Clinician
Newark Community Street Team

Lydia Munoz, LCSW
CEO
Spanish Community Center

Tamika Muse, CPRS
Center for Family Services

Ken Musgrove
Director of Recovery Support
Community in Crisis

David L. Nathan, MD, DFAPA
Clinical Associate Professor
Rutgers University – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Julie Neufeld, LCSW
Therapist

Susan Nierenberg, RN, CMS

Alison Noble, SCHE
Senior Community Health Educator
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Bonnie Nolan, PhD, LCADC pending
Addiction Services Coordinator
Division of Addiction Services
Woodbridge Township Health Department

Molly Nowels
PhD Candidate
Rutgers University

Amesika Nyaku, MD, MS
Assistant Professor & Physician
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Sara O’Kane, MSW
Medication Clinic Associate
Richard Hall Community Health & Wellness Center

Caitlin O’Neill
Director of Harm Reduction Services
New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition

Heather Ogden
Advocacy Coordinator
NCAAR-BH

Jennifer D. Oliva
Associate Dean & Professor of Law
Director of Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law
Seton Hall University School of Law

Charly G. Oscanoa
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Jacob P.
Treatment Associate
New Hope Integrated Behavioral Healthcare

Wendy E. Parmet, JD
Distinguished Professor of Law
Northeastern University School of Law

Natasha Patterson, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Public Health
The College of New Jersey

Marissa A. Perrone
Co-Founder
Friends of Safehouse

Elizabeth Pfeifer, LPC

Sheilah Powell, CPRS, NCPRSS
Person in Recovery & Advocate
Mainstream Recovery

Christopher Powers, CPRS
Supervisor
Division of Addiction Services
Woodbridge Township Health Department

Jenna Reidy
Person in Recovery
Recovery Community

Liza Restifo, LCSW, LCADC

Michael E. Rivera, LCADC

Robert Lowry
Harm Reduction Coordinator
Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey

Priscilla Robinson
Organizing Director-NotOneMoreNJ
New Jersey Organizing Project

Brenda I. Rosado
Case Manager
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Laura Sanchez
Human Services Planner
Community Planning and Advocacy Council

Timothy Scheinert, EMT-B
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Rebecca Seman
HIV Prevention Navigator & Case Manager
Integrity House

Poojas Shah
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Varsha Shrinet
MPH Candidate
Rutgers University

Michael S. Sinha, MD, JD, MPH
Adjunct Faculty & Visiting Scholar
Center for Health Policy and Law
Northeastern University School of Law

Carla Sofranski
Co-Founder
Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Network

Mary J. Sorini
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Austin Sroka, MSW
Rutgers University

Jackie Stanmyre, LCSW, LCADC
Assistant Director, Center for Gambling Studies
Rutgers University

Sephoko Stokes, CHW
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Jeni Stolow
Assistant Professor
Temple University School of Public Health

Kimberly Sue, MD, PhD
Medical Director, National Harm Reduction Coalition
Assistant Professor, Yale University School of Medicine

Sonia M. Suter, JD
Professor of Law
The George Washington University School of Law

Roxanne Sutocky
Director of Community Engagement
Cherry Hill Women’s Center

Eamon Thomasson
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Brian Thompson
Housing Coordinator
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Peter Treitler, LSW, LCADC
Research Specialist
Rutgers University

Sarah Trocchio, PhD
Assistant Professor

Meredith Turshen, PhD
Professor Emerita
Rutgers University

Marleina Ubel, MSW
Policy Analyst
New Jersey Policy Perspective

Aryadne Valadao, LSW
Bergen County Therapy

Lauren Valentine
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Stacey A. VanAuken, CPRS
Rutgers UBHC – TRS

Daphna Varadi
Medical Student

Karen Walker, LPN
Director of HIV Services
Paterson Counseling Center, Inc.

Erica Wan
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Georgett Watson
Chief Operating Officer
South Jersey AIDS Alliance

Debra L. Wentz
President and CEO
New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.

P K Williams, PhD
Associate Professor
The College of New Jersey

Jason Williams, PhD
Associate Professor of Justice Studies
Montclair State University

Sean K. Wilson, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Criminology & Affiliated Faculty, Cannabis Research Institute
William Paterson University

Peg Wright
CEO
The Center for Great Expectations

Zinab Yaqoobi
Montclair State University

Svati Zaveri, EMT
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Erin Zerbo, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Robert Zlotnick
Executive Director
Atlantic Prevention Resources

Allison Zuckerberg
Medical Student
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine

Donate Now

Harm reduction is essential. A harm reduction approach to drug use is the best strategy we have to end the overdose crisis, reduce risks associated with drug use, and affirm the dignity and bodily autonomy of every New Jerseyan.

Naloxone Hands
EN