The primary supervised unlawful drug injection web site opens in New York Metropolis


A drug person prepares to inject himself with heroin inside VANDU’s supervised injection room in Vancouver, Canada. Related websites to those applied in New York have confirmed profitable in Canada. Rafal Gerszak for NPR cover caption

A drug person prepares to inject himself with heroin inside VANDU’s supervised injection room in Vancouver, Canada. Related websites to those applied in New York have confirmed profitable in Canada.

Officers in New York Metropolis say the primary government-approved supervised drug injection websites within the nation started providing providers to individuals with habit on Tuesday.

This system, backed by Mayor Invoice de Blasio, is a part of town’s « hurt discount » technique designed to cut back an unprecedented surge of overdose deaths.

« After exhaustive examine, we all know the suitable path ahead to guard essentially the most susceptible individuals in our metropolis, » de Blasio stated in a press release on Nov. 30. « Overdose prevention facilities are a secure and efficient technique to deal with the opioid disaster. »

Dr. Dave Chokshi, NYC well being commissioner, advised NPR on Tuesday that preparations have been made with the NYPD and different regulation enforcement so that folks with habit can use the websites with out concern of arrest.

« We’re assured these are areas that might be allowed to function for what they’re, » Chokshi stated. « They’re scientific, secure, hygienic areas the place individuals can go to entry care and search remedy. »

In response to metropolis officers, greater than 2,000 individuals in New York Metropolis died from deadly overdoses in 2020. The secure drug consumption websites might be operated at websites that additionally supply clear needles and different providers.

A feasibility examine carried out by the NYC Well being Division discovered this system may save « as much as 130 lives a yr. »

The facilities situated in Manhattan might be operated by a brand new nonprofit group referred to as OnPoint NYC shaped by two organizations targeted on hurt discount.

« Being the first OPC web site within the US is an honor & unbelievable step ahead in ending the opioid disaster, » the group stated in a tweet Tuesday morning.

For greater than 29 years, we’ve got devoted our lives to ending #overdose deaths & the criminalization & stigma related to substance use. Being the first OPC web site within the US is an honor & unbelievable step ahead in ending the #overdosecrisis #wearethemedicine #THISSITESAVESLIVES

Folks with substance use dysfunction will have the ability to inject heroin and different illicit medication underneath the care of medical professionals. They may also be provided entry to habit remedy and different well being care.

Related websites in Australia and Canada have confirmed profitable at stopping overdoses, decreasing drug use in public locations, and selling safer injection practices that cut back the unfold of ailments reminiscent of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Supervised injection websites have been proposed in cities together with Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. However drug war-era insurance policies and authorized challenges have lengthy delayed creation of secure drug consumption applications within the U.S.

Officers in New York Metropolis advised NPR they’re unaware of any authorized challenges filed to dam this program.

Following New York Metropolis’s announcement Tuesday, the Baltimore metropolis public well being division praised the choice in a tweet: « We’re happy with you, New York. »

Kassandra Frederique, who heads an advocacy group referred to as the Drug Coverage Alliance, stated she hopes different cities throughout the U.S. will comply with New York Metropolis’s lead.

« I believe that is going to present people braveness, » Frederique advised NPR. « I believe there are a number of telephone calls occurring proper now with people determining, OK, like can we do that as nicely? »

In January, a panel of federal judges blocked creation of a supervised injection web site proposed in Philadelphia. « [T]he opioid disaster might name for modern options…[but] native improvements might not break federal regulation, » judges with the third U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals concluded.

Within the months since that ruling, drug overdose deaths have continued to surge nationwide, with greater than 100,000 People in a single 12-month interval for the primary time, in line with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

Earlier this month the Biden administration declined to endorse secure drug use websites as a technique for decreasing deadly overdoses.

Throughout a press convention earlier in month, Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the White Home Workplace of Nationwide Drug Management Coverage, stated the matter can be determined by the courts.

« We can’t deal with this particularly round overdose prevention websites primarily due to ongoing litigation, » he stated.

On Tuesday a spokesperson for the Justice Division declined to touch upon New York Metropolis’s overdose prevention program.

It is unclear whether or not New York Metropolis’s secure injection program will face opposition and authorized challenges. De Blasio has acknowledged the potential of a federal crackdown.

In April, he and different mayors despatched a letter to U.S. Lawyer Common Merrick Garland urging him to challenge a press release on behalf of the DOJ saying the enforcement of federal regulation in opposition to supervised injection services wouldn’t be a precedence.

Though he by no means acquired that assurance, de Blasio stated final month he was optimistic the facilities can be allowed to maintain their doorways open.

« We now have a brand new administration in Washington, a brand new administration in Albany, » de Blasio stated on Oct. 26. « It was the suitable time to do one thing on this subject whereas we may lastly have the type of potential cooperation we’d like. »

Since saying his assist for the mission in 2018, the de Blasio administration has additionally been working with the NYPD and district attorneys to make sure the websites can function with out the interference of native municipal regulation enforcement.

Spokespeople for the Manhattan and Brooklyn DAs confirmed to WNYC/Gothamist their assist for overdose prevention facilities. WNYC/Gothamist didn’t get a response from Bronx DA Darcel Clark, who has beforehand spoken out in opposition to the services.

« Authorities shouldn’t be concerned in taking over that kind of legal responsibility, » Clark stated in 2019. The NYPD did additionally not reply to a request for remark.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul additionally continues to hedge on the problem.

« Gov. Hochul is deeply and personally dedicated to combating the opioid epidemic, and all choices are on the desk to avoid wasting lives, » a spokesperson for the governor’s workplace advised WNYC/Gothamist.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes workplace in January, has made it clear he helps overdose prevention facilities.

Caroline Lewis of WNYC/Gothamist contributed to this report.

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