New York City authorized two drug-injection sites that began operating in Manhattan Tuesday with the goal of curbing a surge in overdose deaths.
America appears to have given up on ending the opioid crisis in favor of managing it.
Users brought their own drugs to the sites — in the neighborhoods of East Harlem and Washington Heights — where staff provided clean needles, administered naloxone to reverse overdoses and suggested treatment options, per The New York Times.
New York became the first U.S. city to open officially authorized injection sites.
- Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, who championed the authorization of the sites, recently said New York would prove that “after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”
- While the sites are illegal under federal law, most of New York’s other Democratic leaders, including Mayor-elect Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul, have voiced support for them.
THE OPIOID CRISIS
New York City’s experiment came after more than 2,000 people died of a drug overdose in New York City in 2020, the highest total since the city began keeping track of overdose deaths in 2000, New York State reported.
- Nationally, overdose deaths rose to more than 100,000 in the 12-month period that ended in April, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, up nearly 30 percent from the previous 12 months.
The opioid epidemic has been escalating for decades, but support for official injection sites — as opposed to anti-addition efforts — has only recently gone mainstream.
Then: As president, Donald Trump was widely criticized in the media for not doing more to address the opioid crisis as promised.
- Vox correspondent German Lopez, for example, wrote in 2020 that Trump should tackle underlying “structural problems” like excessive opioid prescribing and underinvestment in addiction treatment, needle exchanges and overall health care.
- Meanwhile, The Times, in 2018, took seriously concerns about quality-of-life issues around injection sites that were raised by the New York Police Department and others.
Now: President Joe Biden’s campaign plan to “end the opioid crisis” has seemingly been forgotten, and a number of cities — including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle — have taken steps toward authorizing injection sites.
- The Washington Post endorsed New York City’s sites in an editorial Tuesday, citing “promising results in preventing deaths and directing users to treatment” in Canada and other countries.
- “More U.S. cities should embrace the opportunity to prevent needless death; the Biden administration should stay out of the way; and Congress should change federal law to clarify that local governments can authorize this lifesaving work,” the editors wrote. “No more people should have to die before attitudes finally change.”
GLIDE, a San Francisco-based social justice group, last month celebrated “International Drug Users Day” in a tweet that it later deleted amid backlash.