Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, announced a proposal to install the nation’s first supervised drug injection facility in Ithaca, according to an official statement released by the City of Ithaca Monday.
Myrick proposed the strategy to address issues of drug abuse and “ineffectiveness of approaches rooted in the criminal justice system,” he said in a statement. The facility will enable heroin drug users to inject the drug under supervision of a nurse, without being arrested.
The plan is based on the success of drug facilities implemented in several cities in Europe and Canada, the press release said.
“While much of drug policy is driven at the state and federal level, there is a great deal that municipalities can do to create more effective drug policies,” Myrick said in a statement.
Don MacPherson, director of Canadian Drug Policy Coalition — an organization that has utilized these injection sites— said the facilities provide “people [with] a safe place to inject drugs, where they won’t overdose and die, where they won’t get HIV, Hepatitis C, or other blood-born diseases.”
According to MacPherson, the “public health facility” provides a safe environment for activities that are already occurring in the community, such as people injecting heroin.
“They take that problem and they surround it with a help context,” he said. “There’s people there to help if you overdose, there’s people there to make sure you inject properly, there’s people there to help you get counseling or better housing.”
The service — which aims to provide a safe community for the drug users — will usually be available for people who are homeless or suffer from mental health problems, according to MacPherson.
“It’s a good thing,” MacPherson said. “It sends a strong message to people who are using drugs that the community cares that they stay alive and it gives people who use drugs a place to go that is not in someone’s backyard or not in a back alley — it’s in a clean hygienic help facility. It’s a win-win-win.”
MacPherson added that injection facilities had beneficial impacts for people who used them in Vancouver, Canada.
“There’s no evidence to show that supervised injection facilities increase drug use,” he said. “If you’re a drug user who uses Vancouver’s injection room, you are 30 percent more likely to go to drug treatment, so it’s a door into the rest of the system as well as a place to inject your drugs. You’re 30 percent less likely to inject using risky behavior.”
John Barber, Chief of Ithaca Police Department, said he agrees that the city needs to address a societal drug problem, but voiced concerns over the introduction of the proposed injection sites.
“I firmly support the exploration of a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program for Ithaca, but I am wary of supervised injection sites,” Barber said.
The City of Ithaca will also be releasing a report on the supervised injection facility called “The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy” at a press conference Wednesday.
Myrick will hold a live press conference in Ithaca at 9:30 a.m. and a national teleconference at noon Wednesday to speak with more details on the newly proposed supervised injection facility.
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something,” Myrick tweeted, quoting former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, on Monday evening.
Alexa Eskenazi ’19 contributed reporting to this article.