New York Considers Safe Places for Addicts to Shoot Up
Public health groups in New York have banded together to advocate for supervised injection sites, a place where addicts can go to use intravenous drugs under medical supervision. This is expected to do two things, reduce the amount of Heroin overdoses and give professionals another outlet to get addicts into treatment.
Dr. Richard Blondell, who heads up the National Center for Physician Training in Addiction Medicine, says that other countries have used safe injection facilities for years.
There around 100 supervised injection facilities around the world, but none in the U.S. and just one in Canada.
“You remove people from injecting in unsafe facilities where there’s going to be overdoses. There’s going to be criminal elements that are associated with those sorts of things,” Blondell told WBFO
“I’m not sure people have the political will. People who have injection drug abuse face a prejudice and a stigma. And there is some sentiment that, ‘Why make it easy for them and why spend public money on this?’” Blondell said.
The safe injection sites are meant to provide a hygienic, safe space where medical professionals can intervene in the event of an overdose.
In a statement, Julie Netherland, who is a part of the Drug Policy Alliance said “Supervised injection facilities can reduce overdose deaths and have proven effective in improving a host of public health and public safety outcomes. We can no longer afford to let fear and stigma stand in the way of saving lives.”
Luke Nasta, executive director of Camelot Counseling Service, said that government resources should be focused on prevention.
“This would be a clear message of surrender in the effort to control the heroin epidemic, prevent new users and reverse a deadly trend,” he said. “An epidemic cannot be curtailed by giving it a safe environment in which to thrive.”
A Poll done by Silive.com shows the majority of people are against supervised injection sites the question “Do you think supervised injection sites should be considered as a way to cut overdose deaths?” was answered “No: It sends the wrong message about drug use” by 80 percent of the people who took it. Only 19 percent of poll takers answered “Yes: Anything that cuts the number of deaths is worth considering.”
In a statement Staten Island Borough President James Oddo said “With one breath we cannot tell children that drug abuse is bad, and with another breath provide drug addicted individuals with a government approved shooting gallery to continue using drugs.”
Supervised Injection Sites in Action
Insite opened its doors in Vancouver in 2003 according to its website since then “Insite has been a safe, health-focused place where people inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment, to housing and community supports.”
Insite’s model is based on harm reduction, which means that its goal is to reduce negative consequences of drug use. The counselors there often make referrals to social and health service agencies.
According to studies done by BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS “fatal overdoses within 500 meters of Insite decreased by 35% after the facility opened compared to a decrease of 9% in the rest of Vancouver.”
Insite says from January 1 to December 31, 2012 there were 497 overdose incidents and 3,418 interventions. That year there were more than 400 admissions from Insite to Onsite, the detox facility that’s next to the supervised injection site. Onsite has a recorded program completion rate 0f 49 percent.
According to an analysis by Kathleen Dooling MD and Michael Rachlis MD “(Insites) opening was associated independently with a 30% increase in detoxification service use, and this behavior was associated with increased rates of long-term addiction treatment initiation and reduced injecting.”