Lame-duck New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, on his way out the door, is opening the country’s first ‘shooting galleries’ — supervised ‘clinics’ where habitual users can go to shoot up otherwise illegal drugs.
“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,” de Blasio, who has four weeks left in office, said in a statement, the New York Post reported.
The non-profit centers opened Tuesday, The Post said. One clinic, New York Harm Reduction Educators, is located in Harlem, while the second, the CORNER Project, is in Washington Heights.
The Post added that there were five overdoses at the Harlem site on Tuesday where 85 users injected themselves with fentanyl-laced drugs including heroin.
“We have had some overdoses today,” Kailin See, the senior director of programs at New York Harm Reduction Educators, confirmed to the outlet. “They survived.”
Meanwhile, The Post said that the Washington Heights CORNER Project banned access to the media and barred staff from talking to the press. The owner of a nearby business told the paper that one person was taken away in an ambulance.
“I think what they’re doing is they’re promoting this which is awful,” the business owner said, declining to be identified by name out of fear that his business would be vandalized.
The city’s health department said the two locations were chosen due to a “health need and depth of program experience.”
The Post said that last year, more than 2,000 New Yorkers died from drug overdoses, which was the highest number of ODs since health officials began tracking them in 2000. Opioids are the most common drugs involved in those fatalities.
In the first quarter of 2021, The Post reported that another 596 people died “due to addition,” while a Health Department study claimed that the shooting galleries could save as many as 130 people annually.
Initially, de Blasio sought to open four clinics but he was opposed by former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former GOP President Donald Trump.
City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, a Staten Island Republican, said he is skeptic about whether the clinics will be a success.
“British Columbia has led North America in safe injection sites, all while crossing overdose death milestones every month. How anyone can see this as a solution to a serious problem is beyond me, never mind the concerns of the neighbors,” Borelli told The Post.
Meanwhile, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), whose district includes Staten Island and portions of southern Brooklyn, called on the Justice Department to block the clinics, recalling that under Trump the department found that the sites violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
In a Tuesday letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Malliotakis urged him to “take swift action to enforce federal law.”
“Instead of focusing on the root cause of the drug epidemic, Mayor de Blasio is enabling drug cartels that continue to break our laws, smuggle illegal drugs over our border, and prey on our children,” Malliotakis noted.
“Crime and fentanyl use are at record highs because of open borders, botched bail reform, and anti-police policies that keep releasing criminal drug dealers back onto our streets. Opening taxpayer-funded heroin shooting galleries is not a proper solution. These centers not only encourage drug use but they will further deteriorate our quality of life,” she added.
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