Editor’s Note: Update May 21, 2018. Since last year, consideration of safe injection sites has grown in major cities from San Francisco, to Philadelphia and New York, earlier this month. Ithaca’s Mayor Svante Myrick then asked the state to reconsider his administration’s 2016 proposal. Safe Shape is a pop-up tour designed to help people understand how safe injection facilities work.
The 10-day Safe Shape Tour brought a safe injection site model to Albany, Poughkeepsie, New York City, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., to answer questions and concerns about how they might be run and if they address drug addiction.
The tour was targeted at New York cities hit hard by drug problems, either recently or historically, according to Ithaca.com. Last year Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrickhe proposed a supervised, safe injection facility as a way to address heroin epidemic.
There are more than 100 safe injection facilities in 66 cities around the world, according to Kassandra Frederique, the New York State office director for the Drug Policy Alliance and a technical adviser to Mayor Svante Myrick.
Advocates cite how such facilities fight drug overdose deaths, while opponents say they enable drug addiction.
Mary Taylor, of Vocal New York, said all of the organizers hope the safe injection site tour will reduce their stigma with people that really don’t know what a safe injection facility is. “The more we talk to them about it, show them it’s about saving lives and making sure people feel valued, the more they’re on-board,” she said.
Tompkins County and Ithaca have struggled with heroin overdoses, including a recent rash of reported overdoses in early March.
The safe injection site model featured three stations:
- A “Supplies Area,” which does not contain drugs, but offers needles, alcohol wipes, small bandages and other drug use paraphernalia
- A “Consumption Station” with kits for use, like smoking crack cocaine safely, and overdose rescue
- A “Chill Room” with seating and literature about overcoming addiction and community resources supporting addiction recovery
Frederique said discussions about safe injections sites are becoming more common in New York.
I think a lot of it is about having people understand that it’s not new, or a science experiment,” Frederique said.
According to a New York City research brief, existing SIFs have been shown to:
- Decrease fatal overdose rates
- Prevent disease and infections
- Reduce public drug use rates and discarded syringes
- Increase access to drug treatment
- Lower crime in neighborhoods where they are located