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Experts say it’s time for NY, other states to allow supervised injection sites as overdose problem grows

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  • Staff Report 

An expert advisor on drug use and overdose deaths has urged New York and other US states to pass legislation that would authorize supervised injection sites. These sites would allow individuals with substance abuse disorder to use illegal drugs they have previously obtained in front of health staff trained to prevent overdose deaths. While there have been concerns that clearer federal guidelines are needed, the expert argues that given the evidence in other countries, which have not reported any overdose deaths at such sites, states should move forward with overdose prevention centers.

This week, the Safer Consumption Services Act, which would pave the way for New York to license community-based organizations to operate safe injection sites, was narrowly advanced by members of the Assembly Health Committee. The bill has moved to the Assembly Codes Committee, indicating increasing support among Democratic lawmakers, who disagree about the issue. If the legislation passes both houses of the Legislature this session, New York would become the second US state, after Rhode Island, to pass such legislation.

New York’s Senate has included funds for supervised injection sites in its one-house budget, although Governor Kathy Hochul and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have stopped short of supporting committing state taxpayer dollars to expand supervised injection centers in New York. They have cited concerns about the centers violating federal rules and issues with state oversight of a location that permits illicit drug use.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Rhode Island officials explored the legality of overdose prevention sites with various counsel before passing legislation to develop regulations to expand these centers. Last week, the Rhode Island Legislature voted to extend its state Health Department program that allows community organizations to apply for grant funding to operate an overdose prevention site. The organization would also be required to secure local approval for the site from its corresponding municipality.

The New York program would not be funded until next year’s budget at the earliest, providing it passes both houses of the Democratic-led state Legislature this session and the governor signs it into law. The legislation remains in the Senate Health Committee, and the Committee Chair, Sen. Gustavo Rivera, has requested more information from Governor Hochul’s office and leaders in her administration about the federal rules they argue could be violated if the state invests in overdose prevention centers.