With just four weeks left in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the country’s first legalTuesday morning, calling them safe havens for addicts — shortly before five people overdosed at just one of the clinics on opening day.
“Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible,” de Blasio said in a statement.
The nonprofit-run centers, New York Harm Reduction Educators on E. 126th Street in Harlem and Washington Heights’ CORNER Project on W. 180th Street, opened Tuesday.
There were five overdoses at the East Harlem site that saw 85 users inject drugs laced with fentanyl including heroin on Tuesday.
“We have had some overdoses today,” Kailin See, senior director of programs at New York Harm Reduction Educators, told The Post.
“They survived,” she said.
The Washington Heights CORNER Project barred press from visiting the site or speaking to staff. A rep for the nonprofit did not respond to questions, but the owner of a nearby business said he saw someone taken away in an ambulance.
“I think what they’re doing is they’re promoting this which is awful,” said the business owner, who declined to be named citing concerns that his shop would be vandalized.
The two Manhattan locations were chosen based on “health need and depth of program experience,” according to the Health Department. The sites will provide clean needles and social services, but users must bring their own drugs.
Last year, over 2,000 New Yorkers died of drug overdoses, the highest since the city started tracking the figures in 2000. The most common drug involved in the fatalities is opioids. Between January and March this year, another 596 people lost their lives due to addiction. A city Health Department study found that the sites could save up to 130 people a year.
The mayorthe controversial proposal to open a total of four sites before, but was blocked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump, who both opposed the plan.
City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) was skeptical about the program’s effectiveness.
“British Columbia has led North America in safe injection sites, all while crossing overdose death milestones every month. How anyone can see this as a solution to a serious problem is beyond me, never mind the concerns of the neighbors,” Borelli told The Post Tuesday.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), whose district includes Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn, called on the Department of Justice to block the sites, noting that under former President Trump the DOJ said such sites would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Malliotakis wrote US Attorney General Merrick Garland Tuesday urging him to “take swift action to enforce federal law.”
The congresswoman cited a Jan. 2021 Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that determined it was a federal crime for a supervised injection site run by a Philadelphia nonprofit to allow consumption of illegal drug use at its location.
“Instead of focusing on the root cause of the drug epidemic, Mayor de Blasio is enabling drug cartels that continue to break our laws, smuggle illegal drugs over our border, and prey on our children,” Malliotakis said.
“Crime and fentanyl use are at record highs because of open borders, botched bail reform, and anti-police policies that keep releasing criminal drug dealers back onto our streets. Opening taxpayer-funded heroin shooting galleries is not a proper solution. These centers not only encourage drug use but they will further deteriorate our quality of life,” she said.
De Blasio has largely turned a blind eye toin major city hubs like the Garment District and the in the Bronx.
— Additional reporting by Morgan Grenz
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