Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

March 22, 2023


Today, as legislation supporting the use of harm reduction centers in a pilot program receives a public hearing in front of the Public Health Committee, State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) joined Mark Jenkins, the executive director for the Connecticut Harm Reduction Alliance, John Lally, ARPN and executive director for Today I Matter, Inc., and Traci Eburg, community engagement specialist at McCall Behavioral Health Network, to promote the positive benefits this different response to the opioid crisis can hold.

Turning away from a punitive, punishing approach to addiction that ostracizes those struggling with addiction without aiding their recovery, harm reduction centers offer a new approach toward addressing addiction by meeting individuals on their own terms and seeking to aid them in a more constructive manner.

“Just last week, I had the opportunity to visit a harm prevention center in New York City, and what I learned there was eye-opening,” said Sen. Anwar. “Addiction is a serious disease, and we may find success in treating it as seriously as it deserves. Harm prevention centers do that. They provide a different environment for those struggling with addiction with protections against overdose deaths and connections to aid for those who seek it. This is a different approach to addiction than the ones we typically think of, and early results from programs in the United States are promising. I’m hopeful that the results they’ve seen can be replicated in Connecticut with the passage of key legislation.”

Senate Bill 9, “An Act Concerning Health and Wellness For Connecticut Residents,” offers a number of significant changes and improvements to Connecticut’s approach and response to public health. One of its most significant changes would be the establishment of a pilot program to prevent drug overdoses by establishing three harm reduction centers in Connecticut. These centers provide individuals with spaces to consume drugs acquired in other locations with monitoring and treatment on site in the event of an overdose, such as administering opioid antagonists like Narcan. They would also refer individuals using drugs on-site with referrals to substance use disorder and other mental health services.

The bill would further seek to respond to the continuing opioid crisis by allowing for reduced-price purchases of Narcan and other opioid antagonists in bulk by municipalities and organizations and by making opioid prescription practices more stringent, such as by including prescriptions for opioid antagonists for patients who are at potential risk of overdose or abuse.

On Thursday, March 16, Sen. Anwar and State Representative Tracy Marra (R-141) visited an OnPoint overdose/harm prevention center in New York City; the organization has locations in the city in East Harlem and Washington Heights. In addition to harm reduction services, including syringe exchanges and counseling with drug users, the organization has drop-in centers with hot meals, coffee, showers, bathrooms and laundry for those in need, as well as in-house clinical services to aid visitors. Since the organization launched in late autumn 2021, it has served thousands of participants and prevented more than 800 overdoses, with nearly 66,000 people utilizing its services in that time. Not only have the centers seen no deaths in their services, the services they provide have helped save more than $35 million in public service resources in New York City. Advocates noted that there has never been a known overdose among those using harm reduction centers.