image source: cnn.com
In response to our losing battle with the war on drugs, Svante Myrich the 28 year-old mayor is Ithaca, New York has decided to propose a rather unorthodox method of addressing this issue in society by unveiling his intention to open the first supervised heroin injection facility in the United States. At this facility, users will be able to legally inject heroin, with clean needles under the supervision of a nurse. There will also be a medical team available in the event that an individual overdoses and requires medical attention. Additionally, there will be resources readily available for addicts who are willing to attend treatment.
Not The First of Its Kind
While this will be the first of it’s kind in the United States, there are legal injection facilities in Canada, Europe and Australia. The first to open in Canada is a facility called Insite, located in Vancouver. Insite not only offers users a place to legally inject their drugs, but provides them with the supplies required for clean injection. Since opening the site there has been a decrease of overdoses by 35% in the surrounding area and not one overdose death at the facility itself.
To many, this might seem as though addicts are being given a free pass to comfortably use, but the focus is on harm reduction. With the heroin epidemic raging and the rate of overdoses rising in the United States the goal is to decrease the incidents of users injecting heroin in bathrooms and on the streets thereby reducing the risk of life-threatening overdoses. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, in the U.S. from 2001 to 2014 there was a 6-fold increase in the amount of overdose deaths caused by heroin. Myrich’s plan also includes the implementation of a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) which allows for police officers to offer addicts treatment services in lieu of jail time for certain drug-related offenses. The mayor intends to develop an apprenticeship program for youths in order to keep them off the streets and involved in the community. His ultimate goal is to get addicts the help they need, he stated the following in an interview regarding his proposed plan:
The thinking is this: treatment is the goal. We want everyone to get better, but when someone dies from an overdose, the 125 people that will die today from heroin overdose, will never get better. They’ll never get that treatment. So if treatment is our goal, we have to keep people alive until we can get them the medicated treatment, the detox, rehab and counseling that they need to actually get healthy. If they’re shooting up in gas station bathrooms and on the streets or huddled behind dumpsters, they’re never going to get those resources because they’re never going to have access to medical professionals.
State Health Crisis
This program of course will take time to come to fruition considering there are some legal formalities that will need to be addressed. In the state of New York, the heroin epidemic has yet to be declared a state health crisis, therefore state legislature would need to be involved. This is something that Myrich has already taken into consideration and has expressed his plan to declare the heroin epidemic a state health crisis.
The war on drug is a losing battle, perhaps it is time to look to other avenues in order to attack this issue.