Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 presented his hotly-debated Ithaca Plan — an initiative to combat drug abuse through supervised injection facilities — during a debate hosted by the Cornell Political Union Tuesday.
After praising the nonpartisan mission of the CPU, Myrick discussed the opioid epidemic with respect to the bipartisan War on Drugs, labeling mass incarceration as an “ineffective” solution to America’s drug problem.
“[The War on Drugs] says we’re going to build as many prisons as we can as fast as possible; we’re going to put as many police on the street; we’re going to arrest the people we see selling drugs and we’re going to arrest the people we see using drugs,” Myrick said.
“We have spent a trillion dollars,” he continued. “We’ve locked up millions of people, more people than any other industrialized nation in the world. Most of those people have been men, most of those men have been black or brown.”
Myrick said that more people as a percentage of the U.S. population now use drugs than they have during the inception of the War on Drugs under President Nixon.
“We need, I feel, something new,” Myrick said.
Myrick also addressed the concern that supervised injection sites are “too soft on the drug user,” as they can “coddle” and “enable” the drug user. To back up his claim, he shared his experience growing up with a father addicted to cocaine.
“We grew up in poverty because of his addiction … I was reluctant [to embrace this plan] because I had been taught for 28 years not to enable an addict … let me tell you what changed my mind,” he said.
First, Myrick pointed out the potential benefits of his Ithaca Plan, identifying that supervised injection facilities can “save lives.”
“Nobody can recover from their addiction if they die … the point of battling this epidemic is to save as many lives as possible,” he said. “We lost two people in Ithaca every month last year.”
Myrick stated that the Plan can also decrease disease rate — especially hepatitis and HIV — and will encourage people to seek further treatment.
“If you want people to recover, you have to take care of them even while they’re using,” he said. “Every life is worth saving … supervised injection sites do that.”
“I truly believe the Ithaca Plan and supervised injection facilities can save lives,” he added.
Following the mayor’s presentation, the CPU debated the Plan and tallied a vote, which yielded 46 to 7 for Myrick’s initiative.