A key committee in the New York Senate has given approval to legislation that would legalize safe drug consumption sites, sometimes referred to as overdose prevention centers and safe injection sites.
The Senate Health Committee passed Senate Bill S399A this week in a voice vote, exactly four months after it was assigned to the committee. The measure, filed by Senator Gustavo Rivera, requires the Department of Health to authorize at least one safe drug consumption site. The site/s would provide a safe location for consumers to use drugs such as heroin, with medical personnel on site to prevent overdoses as well as make referrals for treatment.
“Harm reduction works”, says Senator Rivera. “Harm reduction is a modality, a way to approach dealing with an issue which assumes, first, that a person who uses drugs is a person, and that they have to be met where they are. Fact number two, criminalization has not worked.”
He continues: “Over decades of the drug war, it is pretty clear that we have lost said war. The notion that we could arrest our way out of addiction, that we could arrest our way out of overdoses and deaths, has been proven to be a lie based on all of these years of experience.”
The proposed law requires that any safe consumption site provide syringe exchange services, provide naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses and they must educate clients on safe practices for consuming drugs.
New York City opened the first city-authorized safe consumption sites in late 2021, although it remains illegal on the state level.