On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new plan to open safe drug shooting centers – supervised drug injection facilities that he says will help curb the opioid crisis sweeping the Big Apple.
According to the mayor’s office the sites will be “safe” places for drug addicts to use illegal narcotics. But drug counselors will be on hand to offer users advice on how to get clean of their drug habits, Fox News reported.
Alongside the drug rehab counselors, the centers will also be staffed with medical professionals who will supervise users and will be on hand in case of an overdose.
“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,” de Blasio’s office said in a statement.
The program will consist of four sites for a one-year trial period and will be set up at four previously established needle-exchange outlets. The centers will be set up in Brooklyn, Midtown Manhattan, Washington Heights, and the Bronx.
“It’s a very complex question … there are very substantial law enforcement and legal issues, quality of life issues, there are all sorts of concerns. But in the final analysis what’s clear to me is this will save lives,” de Blasio’s office added.
The plan will also consist of police officers placed outside the centers to make sure people who are dangerously high won’t walk out of the facilities and upset the “quality of life” in the area or become a danger to themselves or others.
District attorneys Cy Vance and Eric Gonzalez joined city hall to endorse the program.
One drawback of the plan may be federal drug laws, which will be broken by those using the centers. The federal government has not issued a response to de Blasio’s plan, but according to federal law, such “safe places” would be illegal.
Drew Hudson, a Justice Department spokesman in Washington, did note that a federal official has already warned authorities in the state of Vermont against a similar plan, according to The New York Times.
“It is a crime, not only to use illicit narcotics but to manage and maintain sites on which such drugs are used and distributed,” the Vermont federal prosecutor’s office said last year. The December 2017 statement added that “exposure to criminal charges would arise” for drug users, as well as workers in the injection sites, and that properties where the centers are “would also be subject to federal forfeiture.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.