New York City will open overdose prevention centers, also referred to as safe injection sites, in an effort to reduce deaths as the opioid epidemic continues, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
“The opioid epidemic has killed more people in our city than car crashes and homicides combined,” de Blasio said in a statement. “After a rigorous review of similar efforts across the world, and after careful consideration of public health and safety expert views, we believe overdose prevention centers will save lives and get more New Yorkers into the treatment they need to beat this deadly addiction.”
New York City plans to open four sites after a six- to 12-month period of outreach efforts into different communities, The New York Times reports.
At those sites, trained staff will be able to administer medications like naloxone to treat drug overdoses. The sites will be financed and run by nonprofits, according to the Times, and also make available social workers to possibly counsel those drug users and help them with their addictions.
Every seven hours, someone dies of a drug overdose in New York City, according to the city’s health department. In 2017, about 1,440 people died of drug overdose here.
“We are in the midst of an overdose crisis and cannot sit by and let people die when there are proven interventions that can save lives and help people get into treatment,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in a statement. “I intend to work with the NYPD, local officials and members of the community to make sure that any facility opened in Brooklyn would be safely integrated into the community and would connect substance users to treatment and other health and social programs.”
With this move, New York City is now joining three other Unites States cities — San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle — with plans to open safe injection sites.
Currently, there are no such facilities in the U.S. The first site in North America opened in Vancouver, Canada in 2003, and the San Francisco site is expected to open in July 2018.
Around the world, there are about 100 such sites throughout nine countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Denmark and more.