New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has approved and is enthusiastically advocating for the development of four supervised injection facilities throughout the city. The sites are part of a one-year pilot program that is aimed to help reduce the public health ramifications of intravenous drug use and decease fatal overdoses in New York City communities. They would provide a medically supervised environment for addicts to use while being monitored by a healthcare professional to prevent fatality. The plan’s projection says it could save up to 130 lives and $7 million dollars during its year-long implementation. The city already has programs through which intravenous drug users can get clean needles to prevent infection and disease. Last year, 1, 441 New Yorkers died from drug overdose.
The First Program of Its Kind in the United States
While Philadelphia and San Francisco have also discussed the idea of supervised injection facilities, New York City is the first to get so far in their development. Similar programs implemented in Canada and Europe have been found to be effective in curbing drug-related death. Canada, in particular, has had a long and stored history with these kinds of facilities. Despite what the nation’s healthcare community describes as marked progress in the battle against fatal overdoses, there continues to be pushback from various stakeholders who insist that the programs do more harm than good; an issue not unlike the one faced by proponents in the US.
The Next Step
The supervised injection facilities must still be approved by the New York Department of Health and representatives from the areas in which the facilities are to be established: Brooklyn, Midtown West, Washington Heights, and The Bronx. If approved, the sites may usher in a new era of overdose prevention; however, it’s worth questioning what they will mean for long-term health and quality of life within the community. Staff at the facility will also work to provide users with better access to treatment. The tragic reality of drug overdose is that victims are often entirely alone, in unsanitary, unsafe and undignified conditions at the time of their death. Providing a sterile and compassionate environment, as well as a face-to-face dialogue with users could help reverse this trend.