OPCs are secure facilities where people who use drugs can receive clean needles, medical care and be connected to social services as well as treatment for addiction, according to the city. The OPCs will be an extension of existing services and will be co-located with previously established syringe service providers.
New York City will authorize two supervised injection sites in East Harlem and Washington Heights –to begin operating this week, according to the New York Times.
“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”
The announcement means New York City will become the first city in the United States to open officially authorized injection sites. Other cities, such as Philadelphia, have yet to open their sites amid public backlash from both residents and local lawmakers.
These services will be coming not a moment too soon. During 2020, over 2,000 individuals died of a drug overdose in New York City, the highest number since reporting began in 2000. Indeed, in the first quarter 2021 there were 596 overdose deaths in the New York City between January and March of this year. This represents the greatest number of overdose deaths in a single quarter since reporting began in 2000.
“Overdose Prevention Centers can turn the tide in the fight against the opioid crisis, and New York City is ready to lead the way,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Melanie Hartzog. “We have lost too much to rely on the same playbook. It’s time to take bold action to help our most vulnerable neighbors and the communities they call home.”
An increase in overdose deaths is a reality that New York City does not face alone. Data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show that there have been about 100,300 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 12-month period ending in April 2021. This marks an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.
OPC services are proven to prevent overdose deaths, and common all over the world. There’s never been an overdose death in any of these types of facilities according to reporting in the New York Times.
“The national overdose epidemic is a five-alarm fire in public health, and we have to tackle this crisis concurrently with our COVID fight,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “Giving people a safe, supportive space will save lives and bring people in from the streets, improving life for everyone involved. Overdose prevention centers are a key part of broader harm reduction.”