The city isn’t quite ready to unveil plans to establish supervised injection sites in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Tuesday — but those plans may likely become before he leaves office in December.
His remarks came hours after Politico, citing four sources with knowledge of the matter, reported that the de Blasio Administration directed the city’s Health Department to approve a long-delayed pilot program establishing two supervised injection locations to help prevent drug overdose deaths.
But the mayor indicated on Oct. 26 that he wasn’t yet prepared to announce the program, noting that many details regarding what he called the “overdose prevention centers” have yet to be worked out.
“It’s to save lives, stop people from overdosing who could be saved, and of course, to in every way help them towards treatment and support,” de Blasio said. “So this is an idea that has worked in Canada. It’s worked in Europe. It’s an idea whose time has come. But there are some real issues to work through, particularly with the state and federal government.”
Safe injection sites are staffed with trained personnel who provide clean drug paraphernalia to patients, intervene in overdose cases and connect them with various treatment programs and other services. Such facilities have proven successful in other parts of the world in stopping overdose deaths and curbing addiction, but in America, residents fear the injection sites encourage individuals to use drugs out in the open.
Plans for injection sites in New York City have been in the making dating back to 2016 — the third year of de Blasio’s first term — but they only seem to be getting off the ground now with about two months remaining in the mayor’s second and final term.
De Blasio said the plans are only nearing fruition after years of research and complications that developed. The mayor pointed to former President Donald Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons why the injection site program has been delayed so often.
“It was a very complex and thoughtful process that led me to believe it was the right thing to do. Then we ran into one challenge at the time of the then-Trump administration, and the position their Justice Department took on this issue,” de Blasio said. “And we also knew the only way we could move forward is with the State of New York fully embracing.”
The mayor also blamed the former Cuomo administration, with whom he often clashed, for ignoring his administration’s efforts to get the injection program off the ground. But with more friendly colleagues in the White House and the Governor’s Mansion these days, de Blasio said, the time had finally come to move forward with the plan.
“We have a new administration in Washington, a new administration in Albany. It was the right time to do something on this topic while we could finally have the kind of potential cooperation we needed,” de Blasio said. “So I’m very hopeful.”
Earlier this month, Governor Kathy Hochul said she would speak with lawmakers and advocates about an injection site plan, and also called for further study on the matter.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who’s heavily favored in the Nov. 2 election to become New York City’s next mayor, has also indicated that he’s open to establishing safe injection sites.