Ithaca Pursuing First Supervised Injection Facility

Ithaca, N.Y. Mayor Svante Myrick proposes supervision indoors as a way to manage the city's heroin epidemic. But such a facility will need authorization or exemption from the state and the Fed.


By Angus Chen

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., wants to create a place where people can use heroin or other drugs injected drugs under supervision, in an effort to combat soaring deaths from overdoses. But that's a lot easier said than done.

The idea is that people addicted to heroin or other injection drugs would show up at the facility. They're provided with clean needles, and trained medical staff stands vigilantly by with naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, to prevent overdose deaths. Medical personnel don't help users get high, but would give care and referrals to addiction treatment programs.

But since the drug use is illegal, both the city and staff risk breaking laws, too.

If Mayor Svante Myrick wants the injection site to see the light of day, there are major legal hurdles he's going to have to surmount, says Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston. The facility needs some kind of authorization or exemption from the state of New York, either by changing state law or as an executive action from the governor. Then Ithaca will need similar exemption at the federal level.

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