Latest Health Department Data Shows New Increase in Heroin Overdose Deaths
New York, NY – The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) today released new data showing that in 2014 heroin overdose deaths in New York City increased for the fourth straight year. While NYC government has long supported overdose prevention services – especially efforts to make the opioid overdose antidote naloxone available – health advocates say much more needs to be done, including establishing supervised injection facilities (SIFs).
“It’s time for New York City to follow the science,” said Julie Netherland, PhD, of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Supervised injection facilities can reduce overdose deaths and have proven effective in improving a host of public health and public safety outcomes. We can no longer afford to let fear and stigma stand in the way of saving lives.”
SIFs are a harm reduction service that provides a safe, hygienic space in which people may inject pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of health workers. Nearly 100 SIFs exist around the world. They have been rigorously evaluated and shown to steeply reduce overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis infections, and public disorder, and to increase access to drug treatment and other healthcare.
“We’re grateful for the longtime support of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for overdose prevention services, especially for community access to the antidote medication naloxone," said Matt Curtis, Policy Director at VOCAL New York. “But naloxone alone won’t end the epidemic. Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are a proven means of stopping fatal overdose. In fact we have far more scientific evidence in favor of SIFs today than we had for naloxone distribution when the city first supported it. NYC should take immediate steps to authorize SIFs.”
Leading medical researchers and advocates concur: “The New York Academy of Medicine sees SIFs as a key strategy moving forward to reduce overdose deaths and to engage injection drug users in health care,” said Peter Schafer, Senior Policy Associate at the New York Academy of Medicine.
Advocates launched a campaign to promote SIFs in NYC in August 2015 with a series of briefings and public events, including a town hall at the Unitarian Church of All Souls that attracted 650 people. The coalition is calling for NYC to allow existing syringe exchange programs to integrate supervised injection services into their operations, to establish one or more specialized supervised injection facilities in the city, and the support evaluation of the local impact of such services.
“It is time for New York State and New York City to establish safe places where injection drug users can consume their drugs in a supervised space,” said Ed Manchess, Director of Harm Reduction Services at BOOM!Health in the Bronx.
SIF NYC is a coalition of public health, academic research, social justice, and faith groups that advocates for the authorization of supervised injection facilities in NYC.