The New York City Council has agreed to fund a $100,000 study on the pros and cons of supervised injection facilities (SIFs), clinics where people who inject drugs can do so with clean supplies and medical supervision. The controversial decision marks the city’s first consideration of such facilities, which are popular among harm reduction advocates but have been criticized by politicians and community members, who argue that the sites may encourage people to engage in illegal activities, Gothamist reports.
SIFs are currently illegal in the United States, but the idea of these safe spaces has recently been gaining momentum across the country. Governments in Ithaca, New York, and Seattle, Washington, have recently considered similar SIF plans.
Harm reduction advocates tout the establishment of SIFs as a highly effective strategy to help prevent new HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections as well as cut overdose deaths from painkillers and heroin. The centers also provide drug users information and access to detox programs they might not otherwise receive.
New York City decided to push forth the study in response to a major uptick in overdose-related deaths across the five boroughs since 2010, with rates increasing as much as 66 percent over the last five years, according to new statistics from the Department of Health. Earlier this year, the city launched a nonfatal overdose response system, which helps social workers follow up with surviving overdose victims to help prevent these fatalities. The SIF plan seems to be a continuation of this new support strategy.