Something that appeared in a recent issue of The Guardian:
The prosecutor says DOJ is seriously considering closing two safe injection sites (SIS) in Manhattan. As you might imagine, this was not welcome news to advocates for harm reduction.
The arguments on both sides were predictable.
- The US Attorney argued that to permit addicted people to use illegal drugs was itself illegal. He’s right, of course. So how is it that safe injection sites even exist?
- Supporters of the safe injection sites, meanwhile, counter that the two existing centers together have reversed one thousand overdoses since they opened in 2021. That translates to lives saved. Hard to argue with that, too.
So who’s in the right? It comes down to values, personal and social. Which is more important to us as a society? Saving lives, or upholding the law?
Of course, the laws could be changed, but in the current climate, that may be easier said than done.
Opponents of the centers argue that the reach of a safe injection site is relatively narrow in terms of addressing the drug problem in a city like New York. A percentage of those 1,000 reversals, they claim, were no doubt repeat ODs by the same individuals. Besides, the money spent on operating a safe injection center (they’re far from cheap) could be better spent elsewhere– say, on prevention, or treatment. Or perhaps law enforcement.
I can hear the groans already. “We already tried that,” people will say. “It didn’t work.”
The harm reduction folks counter by pointing out that the centers not only save lives, but in some cases at least, actually improve them. By encouraging very chronic drug users to accept treatment for addiction and mental health disorders, and by linking the user to an array of other services shown to increase recovery capital – defined as the “…internal and external resources that can be drawn upon to initiate and sustain recovery.”
The folks we see at the safe injection center, they maintain, are going to use drugs, no matter what. Do you want them here with us, in range of immediate help? Or lying dead in the bathroom of your local fast-food joint?
It’s a good point. We’ll see what comes of it.