In 2020, over 2,000 people in New York City died from drug overdoses. Now it has become the first city in the U.S. to have government-sanctioned overdose prevention centers where addicts can go to use illegal drugs under medical supervision without fear of arrest.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the centers “the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city” and a “safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis.” Incoming Mayor Eric Adams has also publicly shown support for the program.
Access to supervised injection as well as care and treatment
These centers are more than a place where addicts don’t have to fear the New York Police Department (NYPD) or other agencies. According to the city’s health commissioner, “They’re clinical, safe, hygienic spaces where people can go to access care and seek treatment.” They can also obtain other health care there.
A study by the city’s health department estimated that the sites could save as many as 130 lives annually. The Manhattan sites are being run by a newly formed nonprofit called OnPoint NYC.
Similar programs have worked outside the U.S.
Other countries, including Canada and Australia, already have similar sites in some of their cities. They have been shown to reduce the spread of diseases caused by sharing needles or using unsterilized needles. They’ve also reduced public drug use. Although they’ve been proposed in other major U.S. cities, they’ve been stymied by legal challenges.
So far, that hasn’t happened in New York, nor has the federal government indicated that they’re directly going to intervene. Neither has New York’s new governor, Kathy Hochul. A spokesman for her said, “Gov. Hochul is deeply and personally committed to combating the opioid epidemic, and all options are on the table to save lives.”
The district attorneys of the various boroughs have expressed varying opinions on these sites. However, according to the city’s health commissioner, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies have agreed not to target those who use these sites as intended.
These centers are meant to serve a specific purpose, but their implementation doesn’t change the state’s or the federal government’s drug laws. If you find yourself facing drug-related charges, it’s crucial to take them seriously and seek legal guidance.