Increasing Heroin Use, Unprecedented Homelessness Crisis Drive Preventable Overdose Deaths, Disease Transmission, and Public Disorder
New York, NY – The documentary film Everywhere But Safe: Public Injecting in New York premieres on August 25 at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem. Filmed in New York City, Albany, Schenectady, and Columbia County, NY, the film documents the health and safety consequences for the thousands of New Yorkers who inject drugs in public and semi-public places due to homelessness and other factors.
“In New York, we're seeing people in our community dying of overdose, contracting HIV and hepatitis C, and being pushed to the edges because of the shame and stigma associated with injection drug use,” said Taeko Frost, co-director of the film and Executive Director at the Washington Heights CORNER Project. “As harm reduction providers, we're engaging individuals on safer drug use and providing the tools and resources to prevent overdose and transmission, but the reality is there isn't a consistent, safe space to apply these strategies. And we have evidence-based interventions, such as supervised injection facilities, that have been proven to both minimize risk and promote individual and community safety. New York needed that yesterday.”
Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) – which are sometimes called safer injecting sites or drug consumption rooms – were first adopted as a strategy in Switzerland in the 1980s, and quickly spread to other parts of Europe, Canada, and Australia. Today, nearly 100 SIFs exist around the world. Rigorous scientific evaluation has shown them to reduce overdose deaths and infectious disease transmission, improve access to drug treatment and other health care for people who inject drugs, and reduce public disorder, including improperly discarded drug paraphernalia.
“Public injecting is real problem in New York, but fortunately it is one for which we have a clear solution supported by a large body of research,” said Julie Netherland, PhD, Deputy Director of the New York Policy Office at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Countries around the world have opened supervised injection facilities to address the kinds of public health and safety problems so poignantly illustrated in Everywhere But Safe. It’s time for New York to follow the science and implement evidence-based strategies, such as SIFs, that can save lives."
A recent survey by the Injection Drug Users Health Alliance found that a majority of NYC syringe exchange participants reported having to inject in public spaces like parks, subway platforms, and restaurant bathrooms. Those who did were more than twice as likely to have overdosed in the past year, and were four times more likely to have to reuse injection equipment, a key risk factor for disease transmission.
SIFs are a notable a component of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Blueprint on Ending the AIDS Epidemic, which was developed by a task force of 63 leading experts and released earlier this year.
“New York is not taking responsibility for this problem,” said Matt Curtis, co-director of Everywhere But Safe and Policy Director at VOCAL New York. “We do not have to have thousands of New Yorkers injecting in public. By integrating SIFs into the existing network of syringe exchange programs, we could remove a major public health threat, make our communities safer, and save the city money.”
A new campaign for SIFs uniting public health groups, called SIF NYC, is launching with a series of events over the course of September. For more information on the film, visit www.EverywhereButSafe.org.