The first supervised sites in the United States that allow narcotics users to inject drugs under the supervision of trained staff opened Tuesday, City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. Both locations are in Upper Manhattan. The move is aimed at stemming a surge in overdose deaths and were added to locations where existing syringe exchange programs were already operating.
“Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible. The facilities will bring people in from the streets, improving the life for everyone involved.”
Advocates said the facilities save lives because it allows drug users a safe space to use and be watched for signs of overdoses after the record number of overdoses the city saw last year.
In addition to allowing users to inject narcotics under supervision, the sites also are to provide users with syringes and other supplies, as well as medications to reverse overdoses and treatment options.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were more than 2,060 overdoses during 2020 in New York City. It’s the highest reported number of overdoses since the state started recording on 2000.
Melissa Moore, director of civil systems reform at Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said in a statement, “This is a watershed milestone in the fight to end overdose deaths in New York. If we want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and curb racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like Overdose Prevention Centers.”
Opponents of the sites say they threaten communities in which they are located by facilitating drug use.
Researchers have estimated that New York City’s proposal could prevent 130 death and save $7 million in health care expenses per year. Studies have also found that such facilities reduce HIV infections and 911 calls for overdoses.