Photo Courtesy of DEA
The “supervised consumption sites” would be designated facilities where heroin addicts could “safely” shoot up.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Days after Philadelphia Health officials announced that the City of Brotherly Love will encourage private-sector development of supervised heroin consumption sites, advocates trekked up to Albany on Monday to urge lawmakers to draft legislation to establish such facilities across New York for addicts to “safely” use the powerful narcotic in a controlled environment.
“The sooner New York allows safer consumption spaces, the more lives we’ll save,” Shantae Owens, of Voices of Community Activists & Leaders, told the New York Daily News.
Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney noted that the City will “actively encourage” groups like community nonprofits or medical organizations to operate and fund one or more Comprehensive User Engagement Sites – medical interventions in which essential services are provided to reduce substance use, the harms associated with substance use, and fatal overdose. Services, which are provided in a walk-in setting, include referral to treatment and social programs, wound care, medically supervised drug consumption, and access to sterile injection equipment and naloxone.
Philly Mayor Jim Kenney called the idea of CUES “a bold action to help save lives.”
“We cannot just watch as our children, our parents, our brothers, and our sisters die of drug overdose,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner (and former NYC Health Commissioner) Thomas Farley, M.D. “We have to use every proven tool we can to save their lives until they recover from the grip of addiction.”
However, it seems that the controversial consumption-site option is not appealing to New York pols. As the DN story noted, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) introduced such a bill last year, but the measure went nowhere.
“Our State dollars should not be going to a facility that is allowing people to continuously inject drugs,” State Sen. Fred Akshar (R-Binghamton) told the News.
Philadelphia officials last week also released a scientific review of studies of supervised injection facilities, including sites in Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington, which showed that these establishments “reduce deaths from drug overdose; prevent HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections; and help drug users get into treatment.”
The report estimates that one site in Philadelphia could prevent up to 76 deaths from drug overdose each year.
The prescription painkiller, heroin, and fentanyl crisis has had serious impacts on the five boroughs. According to the administration, the number of drug-overdose deaths has increased in the city in each of the last six years. Rates of drug-overdose deaths in NYC more than doubled between 2010 and 2016.