New York's Mayor Backs Supervised Injection Facilities to Reduce Opioid Deaths

Bill de Blasio's plan includes four privately funded and operated "overdose prevention centers" in three boroughs.


Office of the Mayor

Yesterday New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his support for "overdose prevention centers" where people can use drugs in the presence of bystanders trained to administer the opioid antagonist naloxone. Such centers, also known as safe, safer, or supervised injection facilities (SIFs), have helped prevent opioid-related deaths in Canada and some European countries for years, but so far none operates openly in the United States. New York joins San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia on the list of major cities where officials have endorsed the idea.

"After a rigorous review of similar efforts across the world, and after careful consideration of public health and safety expert views," de Blasio said on Twitter, "we believe overdose prevention centers will save lives and get more New Yorkers into the treatment they need to beat this deadly addiction." His administration envisions four SIFs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, to be funded and operated by city-approved nonprofit organizations. Local prosecutors are receptive to the plan, and de Blasio has asked the state Department of Health to sign off on it.

The centers also will require the tolerance, if not the explicit approval, of federal prosecutors. The federal "crackhouse statute," 21 USC 856, makes it a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to "maintain any place…for the purpose of…using any controlled substance." The New York Times suggests that the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions may not be inclined to overlook violations of that law. "While it is unclear how the Trump Justice Department will respond to the city's proposal," the paper says, "the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has taken a hard line on drug policy."

Syringe exhange programs, which operate across the country, receive federal funding, and had the grudging support of Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana, provide a precedent for allowing harm reduction activities that facilitate illegal drug use. In that case, however, there is a relevant statutory exemption. The federal drug paraphernalia statute, which generally criminalizes the distribution of equipment used to consume illegal drugs, makes an exception for conduct authorized by local or state law. The crackhouse law has no such provision.

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) welcomed de Blasio's announcement. "The people most vulnerable to overdose are looking for safety and support, in environments that treat them with respect and dignity," says Daniel Raymond, the HRC's deputy director for planning and policy. "Overdose prevention centers directly meet those needs, and will allow us to start making our communities whole again."

Mike Selick, the HRC's manager of hepatitis C training and policy, observes that "unsafe drug consumption already exists in New York City—in public bathrooms, libraries, fast food restaurants, parks, alleys and other unsupervised public locations." Allowing an alternative, an environment where the unpredictable potency of black-market drugs is less apt to kill people, seems like the least the government can do after creating that hazard.

NEXT: The Days of Paying More to Live Near the Metro Are Coming to an End

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Yawn. Wake me up when he supports gun rights.

  2. I assume he has some financial stake.

  3. I got your supervised injection facility right here!

    [Points to supervised injection facility]

  4. Not interfering in people making poor choices is one thing, helping to facilitate those poor choices is another.

    1. I can hear the plaintiffs attorneys hopes rising.

      We used to call these sorts of places public nuisance.

      Apparently wishful thinking trumps reason.

    2. Yes. This.

  5. I’m sure that for one reason or another this is a good thing.

    1. Self destructive people Hell bent on killing themselves will no longer be permitted to succeed.

      If that isn’t peak progressive I’m not sure what is.

  6. Still not enough for his opposition to the very idea of private property.

  7. other unsupervised public locations.

    We obviously need to get ALL public locations supervised.

    1. He, no doubt, has a plan for that too.

  8. Well, all I can say is good luck. There are some significant downsides to doing this, plus while it’s pretty easy to show that lives are saved for those drug users who bother to make their way to the site, as Vancouver’s Insite officials admit, a lot of drug users don’t bother to even go to the location.

    Vancouver’s overdose deaths have skyrocketed. I don’t blame insite for that specifically, but I do hold it against their initial claims that overdose deaths were dropping. Meaning the safe injection sites may not be having the effects the proponents claim.

    then there are the social repercussions that even the proponents don’t deny– that the neighborhood you place it in goes into permanent decay and distress.

    Sure, they’re going to place it in the neighborhood that’s already in distress, but what that means is that the neighborhood will never get out of that distress on its own.

    1. Yeah who wants to live near the government sponsored crack house? Lets put one on Wall Street and next to the Mayors House.

  9. GEEZE!!!!!

  10. SISs are a bad idea. They perpetuate the misery of the addict by giving up on them and expect that there is no help for them except to die an eventual early death. The 100% “positive” studies for SISs are unscientific at best, self-serving at worse. They increase public overdoses, public deaths, public use, needle litter, homelessness, crime.

    The arguments against SISs is in the comment section here under DonHonda. I also include more positive scenarios for user/addicts by experts in the field:

    Google: Press Herald Massachusetts officials skeptical of safe injection sites

  11. So what happens if the city violates the fed’l crack house statute? The feds seize a city-owned bldg.? Win-win!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.