Mayor Svante Myrick '09 proposed introducing supervised drug injection centers to Ithaca in a press release Monday.

Mayor Svante Myrick '09 proposed introducing supervised drug injection centers to Ithaca in a press release Monday.

February 23, 2016

Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 Calls for Supervised Heroin Injection Sites in Ithaca

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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.

  • old alum

    While I am certain that the motivation behind this is for the public good. It is naïve and harmful to Ithaca and the Cornell community (the largest contributor to Ithaca’s economy) to attempt such an experiment. 1) Ithaca is too small a city, and is under-resourced to handle the knock-on effects of such a program (crime, drug sales, influx of addicts) 2) Realistically, it will raise massive concerns amongst parents in Ithaca, as well as parents of students at Cornell and IC, 3) It is “legalizing” and pacifying a massive social concern that the university has and should continue to stand against firmly, 4) It turns a blind eye to the deeply criminal nature of global heroin production and distribution that also is strongly linked to third world crime, human trafficing and numerous other ghastly social ills. This experiment belongs in a large urban center, or a large, sophisticated medical center.

  • Gary

    This is borderline fucking idiocy and insanity. There is no hope for this shitty remote throwback hippie college town if he is re-elected and doesn’t face federal charges for enabling this. I hope the FEDS this article.

    • TVH

      Wow – that was an entirely useless comment. What’s your proposed solution to the problem? Should we just sit on our hands and let the drugs destroy community after community?

      • Mike

        Why not legalize the drug instead and let CVS and Kinney Drugs sell it?

        You don’t have to break the law because you disagree with the law. If we start doing that, where do we stop?

        • Betty

          This was my prior comment. You must have failed to read the part that makes the whole goal of this program to rehabilitate the addict:

          Ithaca (and most communities) has a serious heroin addiction problem. If this program is used in conjunction with careful monitoring and intensive drug counseling for the participants so, hopefully, over time, they may become drug free, I think it’s worth a try.

          • Mike


            I don’t think I failed to read anything. Are you comfortable with the heroin clinic opening near where you live? I’m not, and I’m guessing it won’t be near the mayor’s office, either.

            Addiction is a choice. Giving an addict more of the substance or behavior he craves–be it narcotics, cigarettes, pornography, food, gambling, you name it–is not going to “rehabilitate” the addict. The problem is that we’ve criminalized this addiction (heroine) but not others. The crime is the problem, not the self-destructive behavior.

          • Betty


            I said it’s worth a try. I understand what you are saying about neighborhoods being ruined, etc. However, the downtown area is pretty much ruined already by all of these problems – drugs, poverty, etc. I used to own a house on First Street years ago. So I understand about neighborhoods. It never bothered me personally but I come from lower NY and am much more tolerant than most upstate people. I’m saying it’s worth a shot. At least once people start to admit that there is a problem, if one way to try to fix it doesn’t work, perhaps they will start to try to find other solutions. From what I can see, the biggest problem of the upstate areas – Rochester, Syracuse and, to a much smaller extent, Ithaca, NOBODY admits there is a problem.

      • Jessica

        Wow, that was a totally useless comment. What’s YOUR proposed solution to the problem? I’ll give you a solution that doesn’t involve sitting on hands, standing in safe places weeping with your teddy ruxpin or marching in the streets with CPUSA: close the borders to all the drug mules that pour in each day and complete criminalization of drugs and death penalty for anyone selling above a certain amount. That’s the policy that keeps the (few) countries in the world that don’t have epidemic level drug problems safe. Any drug activity that is condoned will be encouraged.

        You don’t care because you’re just doing a short, elitist cultural tour of upstate New York for four years, but when you get back to Long Island or Scarsdale and you start getting attacked by money-hungry junkies, getting your car jacked, getting stabbed for whatever you’ve got in your purse (as I can assure you are daily occurrences in the drug meccas of Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Afghanistan, France, Slovakia, etc.) you’ll be wondering why you ever supported such a thing. The drug trade kills people, sweetie. Children are used as prostitutes and drug mules for that coke you like to stuff up your nose. Illegal immigrants sell their lives to the coyotes who ferry them across the border and their lives belong to them while they’re here. Drug addicts are the people who support the execution squads of Venezuela. They support the fascist Cuban government that likes to execute homosexuals and sell children to whore houses for the use of drug tourists. They support the freaks of Afghanistan who like their sex slaves under thirteen and staked to the ground. Virgins are so much fun after a long night of opium smoking. Take it from someone who’s been there, done that: go raise money so junkies can get a 24-hour medically supervised opiate detox – rapid detox. Don’t support the drug trade.

  • Ian S.

    If it’s broken, fix it. Our Orwellian “War on Drugs” has failed miserably in every possible way: availability of drugs, cost of drugs, number of lives saved compared to the number of lives decimated, ineffective use of resources as local and federal agencies spend a fortune on petty drug crimes instead of going after top drug dealers and white collar criminals, and on and on and on.

    Ithaca, as a relatively open-minded community with resources better than most, has a responsibility to try something new in this endless, failing war. It may not be perfect, and there will be bumps and moments where this attempt will not be pretty, but there’s no way it can be any more horrific than what is now happening in our community and across the country with this epidemic. The mayor is right to try something bold and new.

    • Karen

      Helping them inject will not decrease the harm of heroin. Most cannot hold down jobs, so they will commit crimes to get money for more drugs. Where will those crimes take place?

      Heroin can never be safe. It is not marijuana.

  • Betty

    Ithaca (and most communities) has a serious heroin addiction problem. If this program is used in conjunction with careful monitoring and intensive drug counseling for the participants so, hopefully, over time, they may become drug free, I think it’s worth a try.

    • Karen

      You can’t do both: encourage illegal drugs that destroy your body and be drug free. Making it easier for them ruins their lives. Mandatory drug court. Ithaca will be liable for any overdose that occurs in the facility. Are they testing the purity of the illegal drug bought in by the addict?

  • Pingback: Noted: Upstate NY Mayor Backs “Heroin Dens” | Extrano's Alley, more than a gun blog()

  • Paul Redfern

    Binghamton just started an alternative approach. It encourages drug addicts to reach out to the police about their addiction — fast-tracking them into treatment instead of a jail cell. It has been operating 2 weeks. They are getting 15 calls a day and have already sent 1 person a day to treatment centers in NYS and out of state paying for it with drug forfeiture $, private donations, etc. Worth a drive for to talk to the DA there about their program before committing to the Ithaca approach.

    • Betty

      Agree – any possibilities should be explored. Before this proposal was made, Ithaca was doing NOTHING. So perhaps, if nothing else, Ithaca will finally start to work on possible solutions.

    • Karen

      Exactly. Don’t create a magnet for drug users in Ithaca. Provide treatment so they can get their lives back and contribute to society.

  • Timothy Leary

    Welcome to Ithaca, NY. The heroin injection capital of America. Drop in and shoot up. Try not to trip over the homeless zombies littering on the streets. AND, be sure to lock your doors and windows.

  • Lisa

    You’ve got to be kidding me! If Ithaca policy makers truly believe that this is the way to eradicate a serious social problem that forces a ripple effect of additional ills on the surrounding members of society I’m sorry to say but I will be less comfortable spending time in Ithaca supporting the restaurants and businesses that are trying to contribute something positive to the community. I cannot imagine law enforcement being on board with this either when, after all, they are on the front lines . The heroine epidemic is born of crime and perpetuates additional criminal activity; it is nieve to think that allocating resources to assist heroine users to safely inject their drugs could be a means or “reaching them” and possibly encouraging them to seek treatment. I am with “old alum” in feeling like this is a dangerous approach to a very serious and complicated problem.

  • old alum

    This would be costly. If there is money to spend, acknowledge that resources are limited. Spend the money on school breakfasts, safe after school reading libraries, culturally sensitive neighborhood watch personnel, pre-natal care and child care for working parents. If Ithaca is like most US cities, these are investments in prevention and hope.

  • Karen

    How did it go in Vancouver? Not well. Increase in homelessness and drug addiction. Spend the money on treatment. Stop enriching drug cartels. Ithaca will be knows as a city that outlaws smoking cigarettes but promotes illegal heroin?

    Comments from a former supporter/local resident in Vancouver:

    “It is not a stepping stone to real independence but more of a dumping ground for misfits … a kind of gulag full of people with no expectations beyond their next government assistance cheque or hoot, whichever comes first,” he said.

    In fact, the Downtown Eastside has increasingly been shaped into a place tailor-made to house a permanent population of addicts.

  • Downtown resident

    I don’t think this is a safe move until Ithaca increases the man power of their narcotics unit, from what I understand it is only two people… I live downtown and on an almost daily basis I see people panhandling and buying drugs. I also happen to live next door to someone who is dealing heroin. I pay good money for where I live and have seen a decline in down town and the neighborhoods in the short time I’ve been here. I also don’t feel safe where I live. I don’t think it’s fair to say they’ve tried everything when they don’t even have a valid sized narcotics force operating in the city. In addition for an experiment so radical I think Ithaca is way too small to handle the potential enormously negative effects. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, but I am saying the risk is too high and I already don’t feel safe, I will probably move outside of Ithaca if it gets worse.

  • Mike G.

    As a parent of a student at Cornell, I have watched his disposition and attitude towards drugs change in a negative way. Ithaca and the environment at Cornell enable these kids. Even though we have talked openly about drug use and experimenting, this would provide a whole new level of potential trouble in an environment where casual drug use is considered OK. They decriminalized marijuana and while it is not in the same drug class as heroin, it does give kids an attitude that enables them and that can be dangerous. This is especially true if they already have and entitled elitist disposition, which I am sad to say, my kid does. His use has increased and his grades are dropping to the point of academic probation more than once.

    What makes me feel this is a bad idea is that we are open in our household about experimenting with drugs, but even though we have put our foot down about its use in our home and have been told repeatedly that it wont be brought into the house again (it is NOT acceptable in our home) I have continued to find paraphernalia, buds, and prescription meds that they mix with it. There is also lying, sneaking, taking money, manipulation, etc.
    While I am all for finding a solution to the obvious drug problem we face and totally agree that the current system does not work, bringing a heroin hut into Ithaca is a bad and dangerous idea.

    • Anne

      I was very concerned about several aspects of your post and not necessarily the general topic of discussion. Firstly, I don’t think marijuana is decriminalized in NY State. Re the rest, you make good points about the Mayor’s proposed policy. I believe it would be geared to existing addicts but, of course, it could encourage more drug use among people who don’t use or use little now.

      Most importantly, however, I hope you get the counseling your son needs to understand the responsibility that comes with an entitled elitist lifestyle and attendant disposition. In this way, he might still have a chance to becomes a productive adult instead of the wastrel he sounds as if he is on his way to becoming. Look at what you have written! You have watched your son’s drug use increase and his grades fall, he is on academic probation and YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT?

      I suggest the FIRST thing you do is CUT OFF HIS MONEY SUPPLY. Frankly, that will straighten him out faster than other possible solution. If it doesn’t, he will have to learn to fend for himself. Moreover, you cannot expect The City of Ithaca, Cornell, the Mayor or anybody else to teach your son right from wrong. My daughter is a Cornell grad, too, and if most students didn’t have an entitled elitist disposition before entry, she (and many others) certainly has one now. Frankly, it is not pretty. I’m ashamed to admit her arrogance and disdain for those less fortunate than she have greatly diminished her in the eyes of family members and colleagues. And she was not a drug user. Let’s hope there is still time for your son. Good luck.