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Safe drug injection sites proposed by de Blasio for Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn

The aim is to curb overdose deaths and discourage drug users from using the drugs in public, according to a study.

Supervised drug injection sites have been endorsed by

Supervised drug injection sites have been endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Government-sanctioned places to inject heroin and other illegal drugs would open in New York City, under a plan outlined Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The aim is to curb overdose deaths, encourage treatment and discourage drug users from shooting up in public, according to a 148-page study prepared by de Blasio’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

According to the report, 2017 was the deadliest on record: 1,441 overdose fatalities in New York City.

De Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said the mayor supported Overdose Prevention Centers as a one-year pilot in as many as four spots in three boroughs:

  • Housing Works, Midtown West, Manhattan
  • VOCAL-NY, Gowanus, Brooklyn
  • Washington Heights Corner Project, Manhattan
  • St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, Longwood, Bronx

The sites are now needle exchanges, venues where a person can obtain free, clean needles and safely dispose of used needles. Such places are meant to prevent transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Although de Blasio’s proposed “safe-injection sites” — or “supervised-injection facilities” — are found elsewhere in the world, such as Canada and Europe, they aren't currently in the United States and the plan faces regulatory and legal hurdles. The state must approve the program and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has called the sites illegal.

“We don’t believe a president who has routinely voiced concern about the national opioid epidemic will use finite federal law enforcement resources to prevent New York City from saving lives,” Lapeyrolerie said.

In San Francisco, officials are planning to open two safe-injection sites this summer, and Philadelphia is considering a pilot program.

The New York City Health Department’s study has been long awaited — and delayed. Earlier this week, protesters pushing for the report’s release blocked Broadway in front of City Hall, and the NYPD arrested some after they refused to move.

The report was commissioned in 2016 by the City Council, which allocated $100,000 to look at other jurisdictions where the public health sites are allowed.

Under de Blasio’s plan, both the borough district attorney, who would need to agree not to prosecute users and operators, and the local council member, would need to approve. Afterward, the city “will facilitate a 6- to 12 month community advisory board . . . to develop ground rules,” the spokeswoman said. She said there was no estimated time frame.


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