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Push for Safe Injection Sites for intravenous drug users in New York State

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Safe places for people to use drugs like heroin are found in more than 100 countries, including Canada. They are not currently legal in the United States, but a spike in opioid deaths has survivors and lawmakers demanding that change.

Supervised Injection Sites are legally sanctioned facilities where intravenous drug users can inject themselves under medical supervision, and a growing number of people in New York want to make them legal.

“If you are here to save lives, say yes!”

“Yes!” yelled the crowd in response at a rally in Albany Monday.

A coalition called “End Overdose NY,” comprised of public health professionals, family members, and those struggling with opioid dependency are speaking out.

“Nobody can find recovery from addiction if they are dead,” said Courtney Lovell, who is in recovery herself. “Next month I get to celebrate ten years in recovery from my addiction.”

A handful of New York state lawmakers at the rally said they have a plan, legislation that would legalize safe injection sites, similar to locations currently open in Canada.

“No one has ever died of an overdose in a safe injection site,” said Liz Evans, who 15 years ago helped establish the Washington Heights Corner Project, the first legally sanctioned site in North America, in Canada.

“They are not one size fits all,” said Liz. “They make sense as a continuum of services that need to happen, and they do save lives and are an entry point to care for people we were just not reaching.”

Albany County District Attorney David Soares says he would not personally have a problem if a similar safe injection site opened in Albany County. He compares it to needle exchange programs during the AIDS crisis.

Soares says it’s understandable that some may be concerned with a possible increase in crime near the sites.

“That’s always going to be the concern that communities have and they should have concerns,” said DA Soares. “But you have to ask yourself the one fundamental question, ‘do you want to see the bodies pile up?”

No such facilities exist right now. But there is a push for pilot programs in Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco.

How do you feel about the proposal? Let us know in the comments.

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