VOCAL-NY Protests the City’s Lack of Progress in Implementing Safe Injection Sites, Reported by Gothamist

Posted on November 28, 2018

What Ever Happened With Safe Injection Sites? Activists Blame Cuomo’s ‘Stalling’

Originally Published in Gothamist on November 26, 2018
Written by Jake Offenhartz

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a one-year pilot program to bring four supervised injection sites to New York City. The facilities—in which heroin users can shoot up with clean supplies—had long been pushed for by harm reduction advocates and drug policy experts, who note that the strategy has reduced overdose rates and disease transmission when implemented in other countries. But more than six months later, progress on the injection sites seems to have stalled. The culprit for the delay, according to advocates, is Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Department of Health, which has not yet signed off on the pilot.

On Monday, in an effort to nudge the state toward supporting the pilot, VOCAL-NY activists erected a pop-up safe injection room in front of the governor’s midtown office—a tactic once deployed against de Blasio prior to his endorsement of the sites. They also blamed the governor for not caring about the black neighborhoods impacted by the opioid crisis and accused him of backing a law enforcement approach that they say disproportionately criminalizes nonwhite users. “It’s about healthcare,” the group said. “This is not a police issue!”

“The issue for us is that there are literally people dying while we wait for this,” Jasmine Budnella, Drug Policy Coordinator at VOCAL-NY said. On Tuesday, VOCAL-NY unveiled a series of billboards in Times Square featuring Cuomo’s face next to a real-time counter showing overdose rates in New York. “Tell Governor Cuomo to take action now on overdose prevention centers,” one read, while another asked: “How many deaths will it take?”

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