On November 30, 2021, New York City opened two supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users. According to The New York Times, New York is “the first U.S. city to open officially authorized injection sites.” This is an unfortunate distinction.
The stated purpose of the injection sites is to reduce deaths from drug overdoses, which have increased both in New York City and across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the policymakers and social service agencies involved in creating supervised injection sites may have the best of intentions, supervised injection sites are problematic for multiple reasons. First, as multiple New Yorkers pointed out to the Times, the presence of supervised injection sites is likely to have a negative effect on the neighborhoods in which they are placed. (Shockingly, one of the two injection sites is located across the street from an early-childhood program.) Second, supervised injection sites violate state and federal law. If Mayor Bill de Blasio and others disagree with this law, they should attempt to change it rather than simply ignoring it. It is not clear whether the Justice Department under President Joe Biden will take action against the injection sites. Third (and most importantly), supervised injection sites are a classic example of enabling. Persons addicted to opioids need help to break free of their addictions. Inviting addicts to shoot up in a supervised environment benefits them in the short term by getting them off of the streets and giving them medical treatment if they overdose. In the long term, however, this approach merely perpetuates the addictive behavior.
The City of New York should reverse course.