The New York City health department will move forward with a pilot program to open two supervised injection sites with the intention of reducing deaths from drug overdoses, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week.
''We have a new administration in Washington, a new administration in Albany. It was the right time to do something on this topic while we … finally have the kind of potential cooperation we needed,'' the mayor said at a virtual press conference, according to the New York Post.
''It's to save lives, stop people from overdosing who could be saved, and of course in every way help them towards treatment and support,'' de Blasio added, referring to the ''overdose prevention centers.''
He went on to say that ''there are some real issues to work through [involving the injection sites], particularly with the state and federal government,'' and added that ''it's an idea whose time has come. So, we're not ready to make any specific announcements yet, but it is something we continue to work on energetically. We don't have the final, specific plan, but I'm very hopeful on this.''
The city plans to obtain a ''buy-in'' from members of the City Council and district attorneys so the sites can be placed ''where the need is greatest.
''We know the neighborhoods in the city where overdoses have been the biggest problem,'' he said. ''Having it local to where people are what really matters. When it comes to literally lifesaving overdose prevention centers, they've got to be where people need them, and we know where some of those neighborhoods are, and that's where the focus should be.''
But Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, said that ''we would have a big problem with'' placing a site near Penn Station or in the Garment District.
''The reason we have a problem with that is not necessarily because I presume to know how to solve this problem of addiction in the United States of America and what it's doing to our streets,'' she told the Post.
''What I do know, from a neighborhood perspective, is when you literally dump all manner of social services in one neighborhood that is already anchored by transportation hubs that bring in activities of their own that aren't necessarily having to do with transportation, you create a situation where the neighborhood really gets destroyed.''
A spokesperson for City Hall told Politico on Monday that no final decisions have been made, ''but the mayor has been clear that overdose prevention centers are an idea whose time has come. We're exploring options and we'll have more to say in the coming weeks.''
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