In a highly controversial move that has divided New Yorkers, as well as many within the addiction treatment community, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has approved the development of four supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users. The facilities would give those injecting heroin and other drugs a sterile and medically supervised environment in which they would be monitored by a healthcare professional who can intervene in the event of an overdose. The de Blasio administration says the facilities, which they’re calling “overdose prevention centers”, will help diminish overdose fatalities as well as public health ramifications that stem from the opioid and heroin epidemics. Last year there were 1,441 fatal overdoses in New York City.
The Wisdom behind Supervised Injection Sites
The tragic reality of drug overdose is that victims very often die alone in the least healthy and most undignified conditions. Proponents of the supervised injection sites say they offer a sterile and compassionate place in which users can be at least partially protected from overdose and also given information about treatment and how they can get the help they need. In a community in which treatment access is sorely lacking, this can be a game changer for those battling heroin and opioid dependency. Although similar ideas have been discussed in Philadelphia and San Francisco, these sites would be the first in the country, and part of a one-year pilot program.
Are Supervised Injection Sites the Way of the Future?
The supervised injection sites still have to be approved by the New York State Department of Health and leadership in the areas in which they are to be established. Canada and parts of Europe have had measurable success with these types of facilities; however, opioid addiction is a much more serious problem in the United States than those two areas. Opponents of the measure say that they’re a “white flag” in the ongoing battle to curb opioid dependency and that they create undue health and quality-of-life risks. Supporters say that they represent a progressive and forward-thinking attitude toward addiction and overdose prevention.