NYC Releases Supervised Injection Site Guidelines

New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released new guidelines for the operation of supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users.

At present, two supervised injection sites are open in New York City. They are run by OnPoint NYC, a nonprofit organization, with the approval of city government. These injection sites allow drug users to get high while being monitored by personnel who can administer naloxone or other treatments in the event of an overdose.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, asserted that “‘by issuing these guidelines, the NYC Department of Health is affirming the importance and legitimacy of overdose prevention centers.’” Sen. Rivera supports a bill to legalize supervised injection sites at the state level.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms opposes the new guidelines for the same reasons that Sen. Rivera supports them; they tend to offer “legitimacy” to supervised injection sites. This is problematic for two reasons. First, the injection sites are illegal under both federal and state law. Unless and until that changes, New York City is scoffing at the federal and state authorities by allowing these sites to operate in the first place. It is unacceptable for government to provide “guidelines” on how to engage in an unlawful activity. Second, the injection sites may not be achieving their stated goal of reducing overdose deaths. According to Charles Fain Lehman at City Journal, OnPoint reports that 9% of its clients receive medical treatment for their addictions and only 5% receive counseling. Furthermore, the number of overdose deaths in New York City has actually increased since the two clinics opened. Lehman contends that “supervised consumption sites are a band-aid on the problem of drugs and drug addiction. And, as their own data show, they are not a particularly effective band-aid. As a dubious bonus, they contribute to the systematic normalization of drug use. Until New York’s leaders get serious about drugs—arresting dealers, shuttering open-air markets, and shifting as many people as possible into high-quality, medication-assisted treatment—the problem won’t go away.”