NYC Mayor De Blasio Opens the First Two Legalized Opioid Injection Sites in the U.S.

On Tuesday, Mayor De Blasio and the New York City Health Department announced opening the US’s first legal heroin injection sites.

De Blasio calls the centers’ shooting galleries’ and says they are a safe haven for addicts. De Blasio issued a statement saying:

“Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”

The first center, called New York Harm Reduction Educators, is located in Harlem. The second, Corner Project, is located in Washington Heights.

The two locations were chosen based on “health need and depth of program experience.” The shooting galleries provide users with clean needles and social services. Users are expected to provide their drugs. In the event of an overdose, staff can administer medication to reverse it.

Syderia Asberry-Chresfield, a Harlem resident of 30 years, told WCBS:

“We have 22 schools within a two-block radius of these methadone clinics. This is normalizing behavior for our children. There’s nothing normal about this.”

She noted that these new sites are bringing users and their dealers from other places in the city. 

De Blasio initially tried to open these galleries in 2018 but was met with opposition from Governor Cuomo and President Donald Trump. Earlier this month, Governor Hochul signed a law decriminalizing the possession or sale of hypodermic needles and syringes. 

Last year, New York City saw its highest overdose deaths since the city began tracking in 2000. Over 2,000 people died of drug overdoses. The most common drugs involved in the deaths are opioids. Between January and March 2021, an additional 596 people died due to drug addiction. A New York City Health Department study estimated the sites would save up to 130 people a year. 

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis called on the Department of Justice to block the sites. Under Trump, the DOJ said that sites would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act. Malliotakis also wrote US Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to “take swift action to enforce federal law.”

Malliotakis also called out De Blasio, saying, “Instead of focusing on the root cause of the drug epidemic, Mayor de Blasio is enabling drug cartels that continue to break our laws, smuggle illegal drugs over our border, and prey on our children.”

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