Public Health Advocates Call on Murphy Administration to Save Atlantic City Harm Reduction Program

NEW JERSEY —  In an open letter sent earlier today to Governor Murphy, Lieutenant Governor Oliver, and members of the Atlantic City Council, New Jersey’s harm reduction programs, faith leaders, and advocates for racial, economic and social justice called on the Murphy administration to protect Atlantic City’s syringe access services and expand these services throughout the state.  

“We are severely concerned about the fate of harm reduction services at the Oasis Drop-In Center, operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance (SJAA), in Atlantic City,” the letter reads.  “These services are in peril mere days after New Jersey ended its public health emergency and in the midst of an overdose crisis in which death rates are rising fastest for Black and Hispanic/Latinx residents of the Garden State.”

The letter calls for moral and public health leadership by the Murphy administration to protect the lifesaving harm reduction services at Atlantic City’s Oasis Drop-In center, operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance.

“The reality is that drug use is in all of our backyards. Structural racism, residential segregation, and a War on Drugs mentality are the problems — not harm reduction services. Moreover, people who use drugs are not disposable,” the letter states.

The letter highlights pending legislation (S3009/A4847) to expand harm reduction services sponsored by Senators Joseph Vitale, Nia Gill, Vin Gopal, and Patrick Deagan, and Assemblymembers Valerie Vaineri Huttle, Annette Quijano, Anthony Verrelli, and Mila Jasey.

“At a time when we are fighting the moral and public health fight to level up essential public health services for people who use drugs, New Jersey is at the brink of leveling them down,” the letter adds. “Today, syringe access is available in only seven of New Jersey’s 21 counties and only 1.2 percent of municipalities — shutting down an existing program would be a grave setback for New Jersey and its residents who rely on these lifesaving services.”

The letter is signed by more than sixty organizations and public health professionals, including the state’s seven harm reduction centers, the African American Office of Gay Concerns, Hope One of Atlantic County, the NJ Coalition for Addiction Recovery Support (NJ-CARS), Salvation and Social Justice, ACLU-NJ, Latino Action Network, Newark Community Street Team, New Jersey Organizing Project, and New Jersey Prison Justice Watch. National organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance, AIDS United, National Harm Reduction Coalition, and NASTAD also signed on. 

See the full letter attached.

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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.

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