Inside NYC's Push For Safe Injection Sites

By Victoria Kim 05/10/18

The city is asking for state approval to open four supervised injection facilities in the near future.

people crossing the street in NYC

New York City is now in line to implement the nation’s first supervised injection facilities.

Last Thursday (May 3), the city sent a letter to the state health commissioner Howard A. Zucker, asking him to authorize and license four Overdose Prevention Centers across New York City.

NYC is the latest major U.S. city to express a real interest in establishing SIFs. San Francisco is planning to establish two sites by the summer, which are estimated to serve about 22,000 people. And SIFs have the support of city officials in Seattle and Philadelphia, just short of having a solid plan to open and maintain such sites.

Harm reduction advocates favor SIFs because they are said to reduce harm and save lives by providing a neutral environment for people to use and ride out highs. They also make it easier to reach people who need help.

NYC’s potential overdose prevention centers will be staffed by people who can provide medical supervision, who are on hand to administer naloxone, for example, in case of a heroin or other opioid overdose. Social workers will also be available at these facilities, to offer counseling and connect people to recovery resources.

“After a rigorous review of similar efforts across the world, and after careful consideration of public health and safety expert views, we believe overdose prevention centers will save lives and get more New Yorkers into the treatment they need to beat this deadly addiction,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement.

According to the New York Times, New York City will organize a 6-12 month period of outreach in communities where the four overdose prevention centers will open—Washington Heights and Midtown West in Manhattan, the Longwood section of the Bronx, and Gowanus, Brooklyn. After opening, they will operate as a pilot program for one year. They will be financed and maintained by nonprofit organizations.

Now it’s up to the state health department to review the city’s request.

Last year, NYC saw 1,441 overdose deaths, up from 1,374 overdose deaths in 2016, according to a study commissioned by the City Council.

The Bronx and Staten Island have had the highest rates of overdose deaths—in 2016 they were, respectively, 32 OD deaths per 100,000 residents, and 30 OD deaths per 100,000 residents.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr