De Blasio administration pushes for approval of supervised injection sites
The New York City Department of Health “Acts Aggressively” to Green Light a Long-Running Pilot Program to Open at Least Two Supervised injection facilities aimed at reducing overdose deaths, according to four people familiar with the plan.
The pilot project to approve and fund the facilities is viewed by some as controversial due to the stigma of drug users who openly inject illegal substances and fears of federal prosecution. It did not take off since the city council funded a feasibility study in 2016 and the latest push comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering a gubernatorial race.
De Blasio, under pressure from council members and lawyers, published the study in 2018 and then referred any further action to the state. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo, threatened with re-election, has delayed the pilot indefinitely and has expressed fears that former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is fighting a legal battle.
Now de Blasio is using his last 10 weeks in office to ask his health department to coordinate with the state and federal government to implement the pilot project, the sources said, requesting anonymity for himself. express on the matter before an official announcement.
“I believe he wants good faith progressives who want to see this before the governor’s race,” said a person familiar with the plans. âHe definitely wants to take the left lane.
It’s unclear how much money the city would contribute to fund the one-year pilot project, but one of the nonprofits licensed to operate a supervised injection site said it expects it to be. that Blasio’s administration is also finding “some kind of compensation in case the authorities come after us,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works.
The Hochul administration is reportedly on board the pilot – the governor has shared his personal story of losing a family member to an overdose – and is working with the city to involve the Biden administration, said King.
At a municipal forum with VOCAL-NY – a city-based nonprofit that advocates for drug users – De Blasio’s likely successor Eric Adams has said he supports the implementation of overdose prevention centers, despite his opposition to larger decriminalization efforts.
“It really shows how far we have come politically in making good public policy on criminalization and ending the war on drugs that Blasio Mayor Eric Adams, and it seems even Kathy Hochul is all aligned with the need for overdose prevention centers, as well as a number of public policy initiatives to end overdoses and the war on drugs, âsaid Jeremy Saunders, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY.
Project staff are seeking a memo from US Attorney General Merrick Garland saying the Federal Justice Department will not prosecute cities or states for establishing overdose prevention centers – similar to the approach of the Obama administration when it comes to cannabis programs, King said. He said he did not expect the memo to be released until the White House director of drug policy was confirmed by the Senate.
“No final decision has been made, but the mayor has made it clear that overdose prevention centers are an idea whose time has come,” said city hall spokesman Mitch Schwartz. âWe are exploring the options and will have more to say in the coming weeks.
There are almost unanimous among medical experts that supervised injection centers save lives.
Facilities operating in Canada and Western Europe have reported a decrease in the “harms of opioid use – including reductions in overdose deaths, decreases in HIV and hepatitis C infections, and declining rates of opioid use. elimination of public syringes – and they have not led to an increase in crime or drug use. use in neighboring districts’, according to a 2018 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
Rhode Island is the first state in the country to open a supervised injection site, although California and Massachusetts are also considering similar pilot programs.
Nearly 3,000 people in New York City died of an overdose in 2018, according to the latest figures of the state health department. The city’s health service has not published overdose data since the pandemic gripped New York City in March 2020, although advocates say the Covid-19 crisis has likely increased the number of opioid-related deaths.
Sally Goldenberg contributed to this report.