FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 30, 2021
The following statement is from Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R-Staten Island) after having been briefed by the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene on their operation of “Overdose Prevention Centers” throughout New York City…
“This afternoon I participated in a briefing for elected officials led by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) on the opening and operation of “Overdose Prevention Centers” (OPCs) – also referred to as “supervised consumption” sites but more commonly known as heroin “safe injection” sites – within the confines of New York City. Joining us for this virtual briefing was DOHMH Commissioner Dr. David Choksi, along with several high-ranking DOHMH doctors.
OPCs are facilities where individuals can use drugs under the supervision of a trained professional so as to prevent an overdose, and also provide access to a variety of other medical harm reduction and social services. At this time, DOHMH says that they will operate two OPCs in Manhattan exclusively: one in Washington Heights, the other in East Harlem; however, there was repeated mention throughout the briefing of a desire by DOHMH officials to open more of these facilities in the outer-boroughs, including on Staten Island.
Now, let me be clear, these facilities are not brick-and-mortar locations with neon welcome signs. DOHMH officials told us that OPCs will be co-located in existing “needle swap” or “needle exchange” locations, which, according to one DOHMH official, are not plainly visible to the public unless they know it exists.
A press release from City Hall announcing the first two OPCs provided many statistics that showcased the severity of the heroin and opioid epidemics in our city. From 2019 to 2020, overdose deaths spiked by nearly 10%, with opioids involved in 85% of all overdose deaths, and it was Staten Island that had the second-highest rate of overdose deaths when compared to other boroughs, with 37.0 overdoses per 100,000 residents.
I do not dispute these statistics and I believe they prove that we have a serious problem on our hands; however, I do not feel that supervised consumption sites are the way to best tackle this issue. As a former Lieutenant with the New York City Police Department, a parent, and a member of the New York State Assembly, I believe that supervised consumption sites produce a serious quality of life challenges that will only exacerbate existing issues faced in neighborhoods throughout New York City, such as high crime and out of control homelessness and mental health crises. And it’s not only that; the concept of supervised consumption sends a message to our youth that substance use will be condoned under certain circumstances.
In the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it seems that the federal, state, and local governments have lost sight of the heroin and opioid epidemics that continue to ravage our community. That is not an excuse, and, quite frankly, our government leaders must now learn to adapt if it hopes to tackle these multiple priorities at once – because surrender is not an option.”