DOJ plans to open safe injection sites: report

The Justice Department is reportedly considering opening safe injection sites despite saying under the Trump administration that they were ‘totally inconsistent’ with how local governments should tackle the opioid epidemic .

Following an investigation from the Associated Pressthe DOJ revealed that it was “assessing” facilities that would provide safe havens for people who use heroin or other narcotics.

“While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, the Department is evaluating supervised consumption sites, including discussions with state and local regulators about appropriate safeguards for these sites, as part of a comprehensive approach harm reduction and public safety,” the DOJ told the outlet. .

The Department of Justice reports that it may be open to authorizing safe injection sites.
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department took a strong stance against such facilities, lambasting then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2019 for his plans to open multiple sites.

“DoJ officers and prosecutors will not sit idly by while wrongful, dangerous and destructive federal criminal violations occur,” spokeswoman Jessica Hart wrote in a letter to the Assembly. time, Nicole Malliotakis. “The Department will, as always, enforce the law when prosecutions serve a substantial federal interest.”

In early 2021, the department reaffirmed its position after winning a lawsuit blocking a plan to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia. A federal appeals court ruled that if the city had “admirable” motives, it is a “crime to open property for others to use drugs.”

People walk past an East Harlem health clinic that offers free needles and other addiction services on December 1, 2021 in New York
New York City has opened two “overdose prevention centers”.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Facility advocates took the decision to the Supreme Court, which decided not to hear the case.

Despite the legal loss, New York City pushed ahead with its plan late last year to allow safe injection sites, also known as “overdose prevention centers.”

“Overdose prevention centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I am proud to show the cities of this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible,” de Blasio said in a statement in November.

A trash can for dirty needles sits outside an East Harlem health clinic that provides free needles and other addiction services on December 1, 2021 in New York City.
A trash can for dirty needles sits outside an East Harlem health clinic that provides free needles and other services to drug addicts in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The centers opened at New York Harm Reduction Educators on East 126th Street in Harlem and Washington Heights’ CORNER Project on West 180th Street, providing clean needles and social services to users who bring their own drugs.

In order to open the sites, de Blasio circumvented New York State law by using the needle exchange licenses already held by the facilities.

Many lawmakers and activists on both sides of the aisle opposed the plan, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network joined a Dec. 11 protest against the facilities.

“We are compassionate and want to help all of New York’s vulnerable population, however, we cannot be complacent about the decades-long process of systemic racism that has oversaturated our community,” event organizers said. in an email.

an injection booth is shown during the media tour of the OnPoint supervised drug injection site in New York
An injection booth at the OnPoint supervised drug injection site in New York City.
YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

“The location of the nation’s first official opioid injection site without any community consultation is another direct demonstration of how New York City continues to ignore Harlem opinions and locate programs on our streets. to the benefit of wealthier and often whiter neighborhoods,” the organizers complained.

The city defended the sites, saying more than 110 overdoses were averted or reversed in their first six weeks of operation.

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