ITHACA, N.Y. – Supervised injection facilities are one step closer to a reality this week with the introduction of a new bill and support from the American Medical Association.
Introduced Tuesday by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, the bill would enact the safer consumption services act, which makes room for programs supporting safe injection sites.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has voiced his support for safe consumption sites in recent years, developing them as a key provision in The Ithaca Plan – an initiative proposed last February to help reduce overdose deaths, increase treatment access and lower risk of disease.
In a press release on Wednesday, Myrick said, “I applaud the American Medical Association for endorsing pilot safer consumption spaces, a life-saving component of The Ithaca Plan.”
Safe consumption sites — also called supervised injection facilities — are locations where people can legally use previously purchased illegal drugs under supervision. At the sites, there are trained staff to respond to any overdoses and connect people with drug treatment and social services.
According to SIF NYC, a public health campaign advocating for safe consumption sites in New York, over 100,000 New York City healthcare professionals signed an open letter in April supporting safer consumption spaces and urging elected representatives to adopt safe consumption sites as a public health intervention.
While safe consumption sites operate elsewhere in the world, the introduction of this legislation may be the first step in making them a reality in New York and the U.S.
In a news release, Rosenthal said the bill would create a “framework” for supervised consumption sites to operate. They would likely be located within existing syringe exchange programs, she said. The bill would also provide legal protections for the programs and participants and allow jurisdictions to choose to permit such a site.
Supervised injection facilities are considered a harm reduction measure in The Ithaca Plan, which also aims to expand access to medication-assisted treatments — such as methadone and buprenorphine.
John Barry, Executive Director of the Southern Tier AIDS Program, which operates a syringe exchange program in Ithaca, said that research and data have proven that supervised injection facilities improve public health and prevent needless deaths.
“We must stop punishing people, it accomplishes nothing,” Barry said. “We must get our hands dirty and join them on their journey to wellness.”
Featured image: Clean materials available for drug users in the mock safe consumption site May 2 on the Ithaca Commons. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice