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Groups Ask NYC Mayor to Open Safer-Consumption Spaces

Health advocates say no one has ever died of an opioid overdose in a safer consumption space. (Todd Huffman [CC BY 2.0]/ Wikimedia Commons)
Health advocates say no one has ever died of an opioid overdose in a safer consumption space. (Todd Huffman [CC BY 2.0]/ Wikimedia Commons)
April 6, 2018

NEW YORK – Medical professionals, city lawmakers and others gathered at New York City Hall on Thursday to urge the city to create safer-consumption spaces.

One New Yorker dies of a drug overdose every seven hours, and the number of deaths rises every year. Drug-treatment providers say 30 years of experience has shown that safer-consumption or supervised-injection sites – where people who are drug dependent can use their drugs in a controlled setting – not only reduce overdoses, but can help move people into treatment.

But according to Jeremy Saunders, lead organizer with VOCAL-New York, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to take a position on opening such a facility in the city.

"The New York City Council dedicated $100,000 to study them and now, they have publicly called on the mayor to come out in support of these facilities,” says Saunders.

Mayor de Blasio has called the issue "complex" and promised to address the results of the study but has not indicated when he will do so.

In 2016 alone, there were 1,300 drug overdose deaths in the city, a 46 percent increase over the year before. Saunders says there has never been an opioid overdose death in a safer-consumption space.

"We had advocates from Canada, from Europe, flew them to New York City to meet with City Hall, to tell them what these facilities have done for their cities,” says Saunders. “Still, no response."

Other cities around the country, including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Ithaca, New York, are actively working toward creating safer-consumption spaces.

On the other hand, Saunders notes there is no evidence that a law-enforcement approach to drug use has increased public safety or reduced overdose deaths.

"Safe consumption spaces have been studied and proven to work,” says Saunders. “Proven to reduce overdose, to increase people going into drug treatment, and decrease people's chaotic drug use."

He adds that drug policy reform advocates are now working to advance legislation in the state Assembly that would create safe consumption spaces around the state.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY