Chi Ossé, the Gen-Z council member representing Bed-Stuy and North Crown Heights, set records last week as the youngest council member to ever pass a bill.
The bill, which passed unanimously in the council last week and was co-sponsored by Manhattan Councilmember Keith Powers is aimed at preventing and reversing opioid overdoses in bars and nightclubs citywide.
“It’s so exciting—I’m so proud of the work that my staff and my offices have been doing to get to this point,” Ossé said.
“It’s already historic that we are here and I am here, and now to pass a bill that is coming into New York City law is just amazing.”
Ossé’s bill will establish the “Nightlife Opioid Antagonist Program,” which will codify an existing program called “Narcan Behind Every Bar” and turn it into a permanent part of city law. The bill earned a supermajority of 37 co-sponsors in city council—including 36 Democrats and one Republican—when it was introduced last February, making it officially a bipartisan effort.
The current program was created by the New York City Office of Nightlife at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“As someone that’s worked in nightlife before and lost a friend to a fentanyl overdose, I know that naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, is truly lifesaving,” Ossé said. “It’s just close to my personal life.”
Opioid overdoses spiked during the pandemic and continue to rise, which is part of what makes Ossé’s bill so urgent, he said.
From October 2021 to December 2021, which is the latest installment for the state’s opioid report, the city registered 1,074 opioid overdoses. About half of the overdoses were heroin-induced and the rest were caused by other opioids including fentanyl.
Party drugs like cocaine, marijuana and ketamine can be laced with fentanyl—a powerful synthetic opioid—in lethal amounts which harms, and sometimes kills, unknowing partygoers.
Luckily, opioid overdoses can be reversed with an emergency nasal spray called Narcan. Ossé’s new bill will codify a program that makes it possible for bars and nightclubs to receive up to 5 free Narcan kits at a time. The kits also include fentanyl test strips, so people can be informed.
The new bill also expands the program’s reach, Ossé said.
“There are bars using this program and through this new codification, I’m expecting more bars and nightlife establishments will use it,” Ossé said.
“This bill will now provide more support for this program and raise awareness thanks to the advocacy coming from the city council.”
While the program was already in place, Ossé’s bill makes it a permanent part of the city’s budget, and, if the mayor votes in its favor, the bill will become a law and officially go into effect on January 11, 2023.
The program also offers training for bar and nightclub owners on how to administer a Narcan dose, free of charge.
“The fact that this bill has the chance to save lives of New Yorkers is really exciting,” Ossé said. It’s the first-in-the-nation type of legislation that is this specific in terms of overdose awareness and prevention.”
For information on the program, go here.