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Will NYC allow ‘safe’ drug injection sites? De Blasio says health report is 'days away’

The DEA has warned that permitting supervised sites where users can take drugs like heroin violates federal law.

Supervised drug injection sites will be the subject

Supervised drug injection sites will be the subject of a Health Department report that Mayor Bill de Blasio expects soon. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

A long-anticipated report examining whether to allow city-sanctioned places to shoot up illegal drugs like heroin is to be released “in a matter of days,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

New York City is one of several American municipalities considering supervised injection sites to combat opioid overdoses, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has warned that permitting the sites violates federal law.

Speaking on his weekly radio appearance on WNYC, de Blasio said that the issue is “complex,” and that he and the NYPD are speaking with counterparts in other jurisdictions such as Vancouver and Toronto.

“The NYPD is talking to the police officials there. I’m talking to civilian officials there,” he said, because “there are very important security and safety issues that have to be addressed.”

The report was commissioned in 2016 by the City Council, which allocated $100,000 to look at the experiences of municipalities at injection sites in jurisdictions they’re allowed, including in Canada and Europe.

“In a matter of days, we’ll be releasing a report done by the Health Department, and at the same time releasing our view, the mayor’s office view, on how to respond to that report,” de Blasio said Friday. “It is literally days away.”

At other cities’ injection sites, users provide their own drugs, but site personnel offer clean needles for users to shoot up with, deliver naloxone if a user overdoses and suggest treatment options.

San Francisco, where the sites are supported by the local police department, is planning to open two this summer, and officials say they are defying the federal government. Philadelphia is considering a pilot program. The American Medical Association supports the sites.

A call to the Drug Enforcement Administration was not returned.

Earlier this month, de Blasio and his police commissioner, James O’Neill, took the back door to City Hall when activists staged a sit-in under the building’s portico to demand that the city allow the sites. The activists chanted, “Release the report!”

In February, O’Neill said "[his] mind is open” about the prospect of opening injection sites, but his department "also ha[s] real concerns about quality of life and crime issues around that site.”

“I had a conversation with the chief of the Vancouver Police Department, and they had a supervised injection site up there for quite a while,” O’Neill said. “At first, he was not feeling good about doing that and then he sees how many lives have been saved, because I think what he said to me, no one has died in a supervised injection facility in the time they had it open in Vancouver.”

De Blasio has not indicated what policy New York City should follow, but for months has said the report is forthcoming.

“We’re going to come out with a vision of how to handle this very complex matter,” he said Friday. “However we handle this, it is a very complex matter legally and in terms of law enforcement.”


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