May 03, 2018

Statement on Mayor de Blasio’s Endorsement of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) to Help End Overdose Deaths

Statement on Mayor de Blasio’s Endorsement of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) to Help End Overdose Deaths

For Immediate Release, Thursday, May 3, 2018 

Contact:     Mika De Roo, 347-585-6051, m.deroo@housingworks.org  

Statement on Mayor de Blasio’s Endorsement of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) to Help End Overdose Deaths

New York, NY—In response to Mayor de Blasio’s endorsement of Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) and his intention to bring safe injection sites to New York City, as reported in The New York Times, Housing Works and Housing Works President and CEO Charles King have issued the following statement:

Today will be a pivotal moment in Mayor de Blasio’s legacy, as his support for SCS now places him on the right side of history, in lockstep with decades of public health research that demonstrates that SCS saves lives, plain and simple.

The Mayor is now supporting an intervention that is known to be effective in preventing overdose deaths and supported by Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Chair of the General Welfare Committee Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction Committee Council Member Diana Ayala, Chair of the Health Committee Council Member Mark Levine, de Blasio mentor and Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Former Manhattan Borough President and President/CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) C. Virginia Fields, the American Medical Association (AMA), the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New York Academy of Medicine,  The New York Times’ Editorial Board, numerous community-based organizations, Housing Works among them, and hundreds of New Yorkers. Nearly 100 safer consumption spaces (SCS) exist worldwide, and no overdose deaths have ever taken place at these facilities. They have been rigorously evaluated and shown to steeply reduce overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis infections, and public disorder, and to increase access to drug treatment and other healthcare.

This long-awaited endorsement represents a real commitment to addressing the opioid and overdose crises through innovative strategies like SCS, to reducing criminalization, and to ending racial disparities.

“Housing Works is thrilled that Mayor de Blasio has stepped up to do the right thing, and given the skyrocketing rates of overdose in NYC, we only wish this administration’s support for an intervention that we have long-known known to saves lives had come sooner,” said Housing Works President & CEO Charles King. “One thing we have learned from years of fighting the AIDS epidemic is that harm reduction works. People who use drugs are much more likely to find their way to treatment, recovery, and wholeness when they have safe access to services that meet them wherever they are without judgment. The evidence that SCS saves lives by reducing overdoses and disease transmission is clear. Now it’s time for us to get to work to implement what we know is effective, and we’re pleased to do our part.”

We need look no further than NYC’s rising overdose deaths—1,300 overdose deaths in 2016 alone, a 46% increase from 2015 and the sixth straight year of increased overdose rates—to see that the status quo strategies have not been sufficient. New York is in a unique position to be a leader on effective drug policies grounded in science, innovation, compassion, and public health, just as we were in the 1990s with syringe exchanges, a visionary intervention that has decreased HIV transmission through injection drug use via shared needles by 96% statewide. During the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s, when half of the annual new HIV infections in New York were transmitted through injection drug users (IDUs), we learned a harm reduction approach to drug addiction works far more effectively than a punishing, criminalizing, stigmatizing one. It may sound counter-intuitive to some, but those who use drugs find their way to treatment and recovery when offered nonjudgmental spaces and services that meet their immediate needs—including safer injection spaces where drugs can be tested to make certain they aren’t synthetically manufactured and don’t contain lethal amounts of fentanyl, where counseling is available, and where visitors can get referrals for detox, treatment, and recovery, in some cases potentially in the same building.

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On Wednesday, May 2, the day before Mayor de Blasio's endorsement of safer consumption spaces (SCS), NYPD arrested 11 protesters, including New York City Councilmember Stephen Levin and four Housing Works community members, at a rally for SCS, which culminated with a sit-in that blocked traffic on Broadway near City Hall. Photo by Mikola De Roo for Housing Works

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Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.

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