International Strategies May Offer Solutions for New York’s Increasing Problem with Heroin Use, Preventable Overdose Deaths, Disease Transmission, and Public Drug Use
Wednesday: Amy Goodman, Host of “Democracy Now!” Moderates Community Forum with International Experts to Discuss Public Injection Drug Use and Supervised Injection Facilities
New York City -- Homelessness and public drug use are on the rise in New York, and accidental drug overdoses now kill more people than car accidents in the U.S. But effective public health solutions are available and being used in cities throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia. At a time when the Mayor and Police Commissioner Bratton struggle with homeless encampments and open air drug use in New York City, the Open Society Foundation is hosting a town hall on Wednesday, September 30th featuring international experts to talk about innovative solutions to public drug use and overdose, such as supervised injection facilities.
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. SIFs provide people a safe place to use drugs, while linking them to services and support. 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.
“This forum comes at a critical time for New York,” said Julie Netherland, PhD, deputy state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Homelessness is at all time high and the media is filled with reports of concern about public drug use. Fortunately, there are evidence-based solutions – like supervised injection facilities -- to reduce public drug consumption, while saving lives and linking people to services. It’s time for New York to take a page from the international drug policy playbook.”
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.
"A safe, clean place to inject would have allowed me to avoid abscesses and infections that have affected my health and would have made it much easier to deal with things I wanted to change about my drug use," said Paul Levine, now a staff member at VOCAL New York, who was forced to inject in public places during periods of homelessness in Brooklyn. "New York needs supervised injection facilities now, and the sooner it happens the more lives we'll save from overdose and disease."
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.
The forum coincides with the launch of SIF NYC, a growing coalition of public health and criminal justice reform groups and NYC residents who believe that supervised injection facilities are an important solution to problems related to drug use in New York City.
What: Out of Harm’s Way: Alternatives to Public Injection in New York
An international panel of public health experts will explain how they implemented lifesaving programs—including supervised injecting facilities, overdose prevention programs, and housing that does not require people to be drug free—in their communities in Australia, Canada, and Germany.
Who: Senator Larry Campbell, former mayor of Vancouver, Canada; Werner Schneider, former drug czar of Frankfurt, Germany. Tony Trimingham, psychotherapist and advocate for the Sydney, Australia Medically Supervised Injection Centre; Liz Evans, co-founder of Insite SIF in Vancouver, Canada; Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! (Moderator).
When: September 30, 2015 - 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Unitarian Church of All Souls, 1157 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10075 - (80th & Lex)