Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal Throws Support Behind Supervised Injection Facilities in New York

Rosenthal is working on legislation to establish SIFs
March 10, 2016

New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, (D/WF-Manhattan) has come out in support of establishing supervised injection facilities (SIFs) in New York, making her the first state-level official to do so.

SIFs are intended to provide IV drug users with safe spaces to self-administer pre-obtained drugs in a sanitary environment under the supervision of trained medical staff. Along with safe injection spaces, SIFs often provide individuals struggling with substance abuse disorder with access to a full continuum of treatment services, in addition to mental health and other social services counseling.

“New York, and nearly every other state across the country, is grappling with a heroin and opioid addiction crisis that has grown to epidemic proportions,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Addiction is a public health crisis and we must address it as such, with aggressive, community-based solutions that reduce harm and provide access to life-saving treatment services.”

Although there are no SIFs in the United States, currently there are 98 SIFs operating in 66 cities in 10 countries around the world (Canada, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Spain, Denmark, Greece and Australia). Both California and Maryland have introduced legislation to pave the way for state-operated SIFs. Research conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse on the Canadian SIF has shown that crime rates have actually decreased in the neighborhoods surrounding SIFs and reduced risk to the public.

“Perceptions surrounding drug-use have shifted dramatically,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Where once we locked up drug users and threw away the key, particularly when the failed war against drugs was waged almost entirely in communities of color that were besieged by crack-cocaine, we now view addiction as a public health crisis. Establishing SIFs in New York would represent the culmination of years of work by advocates to cause this sea change in opinions to occur.”

Importantly, SIFs help to decrease the number of fatal overdose deaths because trained medical staff is on site to administer opioids antagonists, like naloxone, immediately. Because SIFs ensure needles are clean and not shared they help to reduce the rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C transmission among this highly vulnerable population. When sited with other addiction treatment services, SIFs help increase the likelihood that drug users will take steps to address their addiction.

Since drug users are increasingly injecting drugs in public spaces, such as public restrooms, SIFs will also help to protect the public against exposure to contaminated needles, blood and other potentially dangerous substances.

“While our ultimate goal is of course sobriety, that path is often long and hard, and it’s not always a straight line. As a state, we have a responsibility to protect the public health, to meet drug-addicted individuals where they are and leave them in a better place. This is the goal of safe injection facilities,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.

Assemblymember Rosenthal is working closely with advocates to draft legislation to legally permit SIFs to operate in New York State. In addition, with her colleagues in the Assembly, she secured $30 million in the Assembly’s one house budget proposal for addiction prevention education and treatment.