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New York City opens drug use “safe havens”

A staffer stocks a packet of clean injection equipment at a syringe exchange program in the Brooklyn borough of New York City in 2018. Associated Press/Photo by Mary Altaffer

New York City opens drug use “safe havens”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi announced the city has authorized overdose prevention centers (OPCs), locations for people to use heroin and other narcotics under medical supervision. De Blasio called the centers a “smarter approach” to fighting a national epidemic of overdose deaths. Two city-funded nonprofits will run the injection sites, hosted at current syringe exchange programs. Some were operational as of Tuesday.

How will this help? Proponents of the plan said supervision is necessary to prevent accidental overdoses. The centers will provide clean needles along with optional information on addiction treatment. Critics said OPCs give communities the impression that drug use is safe and called the city health department irresponsible for sanctioning it. Federal law already prohibits places from hosting illegal drug use, and de Blasio admitted that legal challenges are likely. More than 2,000 people died of overdoses in New York City in 2020. Researchers estimate the new proposal could prevent roughly 130 deaths and save $7 million in health expenses.

Dig deeper: Read Charissa Koh’s report in Compassion about similar safe injection site proposals in California.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Washington, D.C.



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