Public Health Coalition Pushing NY State For Safe Injection Sites

By McCarton Ackerman 12/11/15
Is it only a matter of time before the US gets its first safe injection site?
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Could New York be the first state to host safe injection sites? A coalition of public health groups and organizations pushing for less punitive approaches to drug use released a statement urging the state to begin creating them in order to prevent drug overdoses.

Advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, the New York Academy of Medicine, and VOCAL New York are part of the coalition. In their statement, they argued that having a supervised injection site would reduce drug overdose deaths because users would inject under the care of health workers who could intervene if needed. But critics of the proposal said there’s a good reason no such site currently exists in the United States.

“This isn’t something you can just go out and use and all of a sudden wake up and you’re fine,” said Alan Rozansky, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office’s Chief of Narcotics. “The necessity of the heroin and monies it takes to keep using heroin will lead people to continue doing what they don’t normally do.”

But even if New York isn’t the first state to have such a site, it seems like a matter of a time before one will exist in the United States. Last month in Seattle, the Capitol Hill Community Council and Public Defender Association called for at least one safe injection site to be built. Shilo Murphy, executive director of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, bluntly told a town hall crowd, “This will happen. The time is now ... Get on the bandwagon or get the fuck out of our way."

Vancouver is currently home to the only safe injection site in North America, and it’s proven to be a success. A 2013 report by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS showed that while 40% of users reported sharing needles in 1996, that number dropped to 1.7% in 2011. In addition, the percentage of users who accessed methadone treatment jumped from 12% to 54% during that time period.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.