Supporters push for more ‘safe injection sites’ in New York

NEW YORK (PIX11) – It was another record year in the United States for overdose deaths.

The latest interim data from the CDC shows more than 100,000 people died in the year ending October 2021 — including more than 5,000 in New York state.

At City Hall on Thursday, advocacy groups pushed for new legislation they say is evidence-based, saying these deaths are preventable. Among them was Jawanza Williams, the organizing director of Vocal-NY, calling on the state legislature to pass the Safe Consumption Spaces Act to bring more safe injection sites to New York City.

“Essentially, medical spaces where people can use pre-obtained substances under the direction and supervision of medical personnel and also have access to a range of treatment services to prevent preventable overdose deaths in New York State. “Williams said.

Two of these sites already exist in New York – the first in the country. The bill would bring more across the state.

Advocates say OPCs — or overdose prevention centers — are not shooting ranges.

City Council Member Tiffany Caban represents the 22n/a district and is a supporter of the bills.

“You can walk into an OPC and connect with healthcare providers, connect with all kinds of services in a really welcoming and dignified environment,” Caban said.

Shante Owens is a recovering drug addict who says he’s been sober for ten years. A harm reduction center that provided him with clean needles and treatment resources, he says, is what got him sober.

“Before there was a harm reduction needle exchange program, I found my needles on the streets of New York City,” Owens said. “That’s where I ended up getting HIV.”

The group also calls on lawmakers to decriminalize buprenorphine and methadone, synthetic opioid drugs used to treat opioid addiction.

“It is sometimes difficult to access it, then when people have access to it it can sometimes be criminalized, so we try to ensure that people who share drugs that keep people alive are not imprisoned for it” , Williams said. added.

The bills have been introduced and advocates say they need more co-sponsors to support them in order to make it law.