Ian Patrick, FISM News
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said he would refocus his efforts on an old plan of his to open supervised heroin injection sites in the city.
During a Media Availability news conference, Mayor de Blasio was asked about the plans for his “supervised injection sites” and if there is any update. De Blasio said that he couldn’t make any official announcement on that plan as of yet, but said it was “an idea whose time has come.”
He promoted the idea as a way to “save lives” and to give people support.
I believe in Overdose Prevention Centers . . . I call it Overdose Prevention Centers because I think it gets to the heart of what this is – it’s to save lives. Stop people from overdosing who could be saved and of course [sic] every way help them towards treatment and support.
De Blasio had reportedly first considered the idea during President Trump’s administration in 2018. The New York Post reports that the NYPD was in talks with the New York City Department of Health about the idea, but it was abandoned by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo fearing a retaliation from the Trump administration.
The revived interest in the campaign resulted from a Politico article on Monday noted that the New York City Department of Health is “moving aggressively” to get the plan off the ground.
Now with Biden in the presidency and Kathy Hochul as the newly-appointed governor, de Blasio feels he can run with the idea again. In fact, Governor Hochul set a slight precedent for allowing such dens when she signed a set of laws which decriminalized the sale and possession of hypodermic needles in the state.
De Blasio said that he is facing some challenges with both the state and federal governments which would need to be resolved before he can make any sort of announcement on the matter.
The Post describes these supervised injection sites as “locations where people can shoot up under the supervision of a doctor or nurse who can administer an overdose antidote if necessary.” They are presented as a way to fight the opioid epidemic by keeping people alive, but they are heavily criticized for seemingly promoting open drug use.
The Post Millennial reports on a site opened in Philadelphia back in 2018 which was met with immediate ridicule and a lawsuit from a U.S. Attorney. The court sided with the plaintiff, saying that people bringing illegal opioids to shoot up under medical supervision violates the “crack house” statute from Congress.
In his conference, de Blasio also claimed that it “is an idea that has worked” in both Europe and Canada. A study from Alberta, Canada which focused on their heroin sites, called supervised consumption services, shows that these places actually create adverse effects.
The report found that no deaths were recorded at the sites, but “death rates in the immediate vicinity of the SCS locations increased.”
“Opioid-related calls for emergency medical services (EMS) also increased in the immediate vicinity following the opening of the sites,” it added.
In addition to an increase in needles on the ground surrounding these services, the report found that “non-opioid substance use, specifically methamphetamine use . . . increased substantially and numerous residents complained about aggressive and erratic behavior of substance users leaving the sites.”
It also said that crime “generally increased in the immediate vicinity in contrast to areas beyond the immediate vicinity of the sites,” with the exception of the capital city of Edmonton. Residents in these areas also said there was a “lack of response” from police with issues concerning these services.