The mayor of Ithaca, New York says he wants his city to be the first in the United States to host a supervised injection facility for people who use heroin, the Associated Press reports. The facility would allow people to inject heroin under the care of a nurse, without getting arrested.
The mayor, Svante Myrick, is the son of a man who was addicted to drugs, the article notes. Myrick lived in a homeless shelter and went to Cornell University. Four years ago he became Ithaca’s youngest mayor, at age 24.
“I have watched for 20 years this system that just doesn’t work,” Myrick told the AP. “We can’t wait anymore for the federal government. We have people shooting up in alleys. In bathroom stalls. And too many of them are dying.”
Myrick said the injection facility would be part of a holistic approach to drug abuse in Ithaca that includes use of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. People addicted to drugs would be able to get clean syringes, while being directed to treatment and recovery programs, he said.
“I think for a lot of people this is going to sound like a weird concept — ‘Aren’t you just encouraging them to use drugs?'” he said. “But I think it’s more possible now than at any time in our history. The opioid epidemic is affecting more people and we know we can’t wait any longer for the federal government to do something.”
Myrick plans to ask New York’s Health Department to declare the heroin epidemic a state health crisis. This would allow Ithaca to open an injection facility without the approval of the state legislature, he said.
North America’s first government-sanctioned facility that medically supervises the injection of illegal drugs is located in Vancouver, British Columbia.