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New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in February of this year the mayor of Ithaca, New York began pursuing a plan that would establish safe heroin injection sites in Ithaca in an attempt to battle the opiate epidemic raging across the country. This controversial harm reduction tactic is getting brought up a lot more lately. Other states are also looking into starting up similar contingencies for their citizens. Now, the Big Apple is set to spend quite a bit of money and resources investigating the merits of safe heroin injection sites. That’s right, New York City is now taking a closer look at how safe heroin injection sites operate, wondering if it might be a decent plan after all.

Talking about the tab…

One of the big things people seem to be focused on right now is the money. Some believe providing addicts with a clean, medically supervised facility to use is a waste. They believe that what it will be doing is promoting heroin addiction while enabling it, all at the city’s expense.

So far, the tab is already pretty steep. The City Council has announced it will be allocating $100,000 to study the practice. This money will go to the Health Department for a nine-month study to determine whether it makes sense to open safe heroin injection facilities.

Shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these desperate times have called for such desperate measures in New York City. The study comes as the Big Apple is still reeling from a record 937 fatal drug overdoses in 2015, a 66% increase since 2010. With 2016 coming closer to the end, it is a wonder if this will be another record year for the five boroughs. Overdose death rates are a huge factor in a lot of new movements for change.

What are safe heroin injection sites?

Safe heroin injection sites are facilities where intravenous drug users are permitted to use the drug intravenously under medical supervision. The sites offer a place where addicts can use without fear of arrest, in case of an overdose. The idea is to have staff trained and available to be able to save lives. At the same time, the hope is to reduce other risks associated with intravenous drug use.

Several safe heroin injection sites already exist in dozens of cities outside the United States. Should America be next? Some of the countries who use this practice include:

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented saying,

“It’s been done and been implemented in other areas [of the world], so we just want to look up what the viability would be in New York,”

This seems like a pretty fair response to the epidemic; trying to explore and educate officials on more options that could help. And beyond reducing overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, safe heroin injection sites work to connect addicts with drug-treatment options. So it isn’t just about giving them a safe place to get high, but also making them feel safe and supported whenever they try to get help.

Conservatives in opposition

But of course there is a great deal of opposition. Michael Long, the state Conservative Party Chairman, claims the $100,000 could-

“- be put to better use than sending a message that it is OK to use intravenous drugs as long as you use a government-sanctioned place.”

However, the reality is that the money is being utilized in a way that serves it’s initial purpose. $5.6 million is already set aside in the city budget to combat AIDS. The $100,000 for the safe heroin injection site study is coming from that bulk of finances.

So while surely some would not be all for spending the tax-payers dollar on researching “legal drug dens” the truth is the money is going somewhere that could make a huge difference to the effect of what tax-payers originally intended it for.

The safe heroin injection study

According to a council memo, as far as the actual study itself, the researchers will review data that pertains to:

  • Health conditions and disease transmission related to heroin and other injected drugs
  • Evaluate existing supervised injection facilities
  • Assess legal issues
  • Input from select “city officials and community experts”

This isn’t the first radical idea on this side of the country. Seattle is also considering safe heroin injection sites. Earlier this year, Boston opened a facility where addicts can use under safe medical observation. However these people have to inject drugs elsewhere. This doesn’t seem like as good of a plan, because it’s basically asking for addicts to use and drive. Still, it is some kind of innovation in a different direction.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital. As the death rate escalates in relation to heroin addiction and infections caused by intravenous drug use, prevention is increasingly important. These programs may be controversial, but the cost of losing lives is a lot higher than spending some money looking into alternatives.

Beyond harm reduction, there is real recovery. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Is Harm Reduction the Future of Recovery?

Is Harm Reduction the Future of Recovery?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Many believe that responsible and compassionate work done by police to support harm reduction has the potential not only to improve public health, but to help heal the damaged relationship between police and public in the wake of several hot button incidents and issues that have sparked endless controversy.

Much can be said about the way that prohibition has had its negative impacts, and many believe that the reforms with marijuana are just one example of how overcoming stigma and combatting addiction should begin with taking a lot of the sting out of police tactics. Is harm reduction really the future of the war on drugs?

Authorities Opposing Harm Reduction

The opposition continues to insist that harm reduction programs are counter-productive and promote drug use. These individuals target such programs as ineffective and irresponsible. Initiatives like:

  • Syringe exchange
  • Supervised injection facilities
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT)
  • Distribution of naloxone to reverse overdoses

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) gathered in San Diego back in 2008 for its 115th annual conference, during which they passed a resolution stating that the IACP-

“strongly opposes ‘harm reduction’ policies and supports law enforcement, prevention, education and treatment policies that result in the rejection of drug use. ”

The IACP further explained that in their opinion the adoption of ‘harm reduction’ policies sends a message, particularly to young people, that drug use is ‘normal’ behavior, and that these types of policies negate the value and effectiveness of law enforcement. This in some ways is an understandable concern. Does providing safe needle exchange and safe injection facilities send the message that the establishment supports drug use? Is drug use ‘normal’?

A LEAP Forward for Harm Reduction Advocates

The organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a group of criminal justice professionals opposed to the war on drugs. LEAP aims to push the debate and popular opinion in the other direction. What is their opinion? LEAP sees prohibition as part of the problem, because they feel it creates an environment for disease, death and addiction to thrive.

Chief August Vollmer, Berkeley police chief from 1909 to 1923, was president of the IACP, established the first School of Criminology at the University of California at Berkeley (1916), where he introduced a curriculum that emphasized the importance of policing through the application of scientific principles for the benefit of the community and public health. Vollmer once stated:

“Drug addiction, like prostitution and like liquor, is not a police problem; it never has been and never can be solved by policemen. It is first and last a medical problem, and if there is a solution it will be discovered not by policemen, but by scientific and competently trained medical experts whose sole objective will be the reduction and possible eradication of this devastating appetite.”

Vollmer believed that there should be intelligent treatment of addicts in outpatient clinics, and that hospitalization of those not too far gone to respond to therapeutic measures should be utilized.

His views on the relationship between substance abuse, social problems and science, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid addicts, were so derived that now they would be considered harm reduction to prevent crime. Vollmer endorsed a strategy that would have required the government to dispense opioids to those with chronic opioid problems, similarly to what we’ve seen with methadone or suboxone.

The police department in Quincy, Massachusetts actually launched a naloxone program that was originally considered a risky reform, but reports state it has now saved over 300 lives, and is being imitated across the country. The idea of putting naloxone in the hands of the police, who are frequently the first responders at the scene, has ignited a paradigm shift in the war on drugs.

Even the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) has been increasingly using harm reduction language in discussing future drug control strategies. To show that the change is being actively pursued, a few months ago ONDCP actually sent its acting head, Michael Botticelli, to address the national harm reduction conference in Baltimore.

Some Closure

The truth is law enforcement has seen a devastating increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, resulting directly from what many call the unregulated drug market. While this is a sad reality, the truth of it has sparked a rush for new innovative measures across the country, with some law enforcement leaders taking daring steps to address the police role in supporting harm reduction.

Supporters believe that harm reduction strategies are focused on the health of both the community and the individual. By taking a holistic approach to problematic drug use, harm reduction advocates claim that abstinence and relapse are part of a complex issue.

Harm reduction supporters also boast a collaboration of drug policy reformers from opposite ends of the argument to push laws designed to prevent drug overdose deaths. The passage of more Good Samaritan and naloxone access laws across the country has contributed to a growing acceptance by law enforcement of its role in surpassing the old patterns and contributing to overcoming stigma for the good of public health and raising awareness.

So the question stands as to whether the continued evolution of ‘harm reduction’ tactics should become the primary strategy. Or should we adopt some of these preventative measures to help keep the communities safe, while still pushing for abstinence based recovery programs that teach addicted individuals the importance of leaving drugs and alcohol out of the picture? Personally I feel that my definition of recovery is more based off abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and not putting Band-Aids over bullet-holes, but I will say that any progress on the front-lines is worth having options as long as lives are being saved.

Addiction and drug abuse have become relevant in every aspect of American life. Police, politicians, educators and community leaders are constantly working together to try and create a change in perspective, that can hopefully inspire a change in the direction of the country. Don’t be another statistic that supports the stigma, get the help that is available to you, it could save your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free e 1-800-951-6135

Vancouver Injection Clinics

Vancouver injection clinics may sounds like a common theme but there is actually only one legal injection clinic in Vancouver. This injection clinic is known as Insite. This Vancouver injection clinic is located in Vancouver, British Columbia in the Downtown Eastside. Vancouver injection clinics, specifically Insite, offers a safe place that is health focused for injection drug users. These injection drug users primarily abuse heroin, cocaine, and morphine.  Vancouver injection clinics don’t supply the drugs but the medical staff is present to provide addiction treatment, mental health assistance, and first aid if any of it is needed. The first aid is especially important in the event of an overdose or wound. Vancouver injection clinics usually see around 300,000 thousand drug users a year, around 700 visits a day. Only around 480 overdoses have occurred and none of them were fatal.

Vancouver injection clinics are paid for by Health Canada which has provided half a million dollars per year to operate the injection sites. The BC Ministry of Health has given over a million dollars to renovate the injection clinic, Insite and to cover the costs to operate it.  Believe it or not the police are in on the Vancouver injection clinics too. Partners of the Vancouver injection clinics are the Vancouver Police Department, and the PHS Community Services Society. Vancouver injection clinics also get support from many higher ups, such as, Vancouver’s mayor Gregor Robertson, former mayor Sam Sullivan, Premier of BC Gordon Campbell, and former mayors Larry Campbell, Mike Harcourt, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The Chinatown and Gastown merchants associations are also now in support of the Vancouver injection clinics. International support also exists for these injection sites in Vancouver. For instance Senlis Council, the Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform and the American Drug Policy Alliance.

This doesn’t mean that Vancouver injection clinics don’t draw criticism either. The Bush administration and the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy termed Vancouver injection clinics “state sponsored suicide”. The Canadian Police Association also voted against funding Vancouver injection clinics.

Vancouver injection clinics are operated by Vancouver Coastal Health and the Portland Health Society.

The research for Vancouver injection clinics shows that it has tons of benefits which include but are not limited to:

  • Reductions in public injecting
  • Reduction in syringe sharing
  • Increase in the use of detox services
  • Increase in the use of addiction treatment
  • Decrease in overdose deaths

Vancouver injection clinics also successfully attract injection users and therefore decrease public injecting.

Vancouver injection clinics or ‘Insite’ has strong local support. Vancouver injection clinics are well liked all throughout British Columbia and its popularity is highest within Vancouver. 76% of the residents of Vancouver were in support of injection clinics. Vancouver injection clinics are places that IV drug users can go and meet normal people with smiles on their faces that will give them everything they need to shoot up in a clean and safe environment. This is severely controversial and raises a lot of eyebrows especially within the United States. Although within Vancouver there is definitely an acceptance of it.

If you or someone you know needs heroin, cocaine and morphine treatment please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at www.palmpartners.com.

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