In May 2018, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would open four taxpayer-funded supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users within the next six to 12 months.
Advocates of supervised injection sites contend that they serve three purposes. First, they provide users with clean needles so that they do not contract hepatitis or HIV from sharing contaminated needles. Second, they provide users with information about opportunities to receive drug treatment. Third, they are equipped with opioid receptor antagonist medications so that users who overdose can receive prompt medical care.
At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, our hearts go out to all those affected by the opioid crisis in the United States. We believe that government, churches, and nonprofits should work together to make treatment available to more people, to expand prevention efforts, and to crack down on heroin trafficking. However, we believe that supervised injection sites—while well-intentioned—are a bad idea.
Supervised injection sites are problematic for many reasons; the mixed message sent by allowing illegal drugs to be used in a government-run facility is one, and the potential for supervised injection sites to act as a magnet for drug sales in nearby neighborhoods is another. The biggest problem, however, is this simple fact: There is no “safe” way to use intravenous drugs. To truly help people who are hooked on these deadly drugs, we must help them to stop using. If a person who is addicted to opioids continues using, no amount of babysitting or enabling will stop opioids from ruining (and, eventually, ending) his life.
Thankfully, the federal government recognizes that Mayor de Blasio’s idea is problematic. In response to an inquiry from Asm. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), the U.S. Department of Justice has expressed opposition to the Mayor’s proposed supervised injection sites. According to the New York Post, the Justice Department regards the operation of supervised injection sites as a violation of the Controlled Substances Act and “‘will not stand idly by while misguided, dangerous and destructive federal criminal violations take place.’”