The City’s First Campaign on Overdose Prevention Kicks Off at House of Yes in Bushwick

Cailley LaPara

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Brooklyn’s favorite “temple of expression,” House of Yes, has teamed up with the New York City Department of Health (DOH) in a campaign to spread awareness of the dangers of fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is increasingly finding its way into popular nightlife drugs, like cocaine, without users’ knowledge.

The partnership, supported also by the Office of Nightlife, is among the first of its kind in New York after a successful pilot run on the Lower East Side last year. According to a press release announcing the partnership, Williamsburg and Bushwick “[were] selected for the campaign because of [their] high density of bars and nightclubs and status as a nightlife destination for New Yorkers citywide.”

House of Yes, which has over 79,000 Instagram followers and a global reach, is using its platform to garner support and spread awareness of the campaign throughout Brooklyn and beyond. “So many people ended up seeing [on Instagram] the literal words that there’s fentanyl in cocaine,” Jaqui Rabkin, Marketing and Cultural Director at House of Yes, told the Bushwick Daily. “Which already is going to make a huge impact. Like, even if they don’t come to the naloxone training. The fact that they see that is huge.”

The twofold campaign involves placing nonjudgmental education materials—laminated posters and drink coasters with information about fentanyl and safety tips printed on them—visibly throughout the club. “This awareness campaign recognizes that nightlife spaces can actually provide an opportunity for people to look out for each other,” said Ariel Palitz, Senior Executive Director of the Office of Nightlife at a press conference announcing the campaign on June 27.

The campaign’s second element involves training nightclub staff members on how to use naloxone, the medication to reverse an overdose. House of Yes took this training one step further, opening up a training session to members of the public last Tuesday, July 9.

After Hours Project teaching emergency naloxone treatment. Photo courtesy of Mark Davis.

The naloxone training session was well-attended— “we had a full house,” Rabkin said—indicating the community’s support and desire to learn overdose prevention tactics. After the training session, Rabkin said the floor was opened up to questions and comments, where people shared stories of personal experiences with fentanyl-related overdoses.

“We’ve gotten so many messages from people that are saying that a friend died from laced cocaine, a sibling died from laced cocaine,” said Rabkin, who also has a background in neuroscience and studied the effects of cocaine on the brain. “The number of people sharing stories like that is really alarming to me.”

Fentanyl was detected in 39 percent of cocaine-involved overdose deaths without heroin in New York City in 2017, according to the DOH. Part of the reason, as Rabkin put it, is that “nobody is expecting to have this extremely strong opioid in their upper.”

Rabkin said that House of Yes is already planning to host another naloxone training and will continue building on the campaign’s momentum to continue educating people in the community and worldwide on overdose prevention.

Outside of nightclubs and bars, the DOH offers plenty of overdose prevention resources, including regular naloxone trainings at the DOH main office in Queens and Tremont Neighborhood Action Center in the Bronx. 

Naloxone is available at all major chain pharmacies and for free at registered Opioid Overdose Prevention programs like the After Hours Project in Bushwick.

Cover photo courtesy of House of Yes.

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