Two modest rooms in New York City are the first places in the United States where local officials are allowing illicit drug use to make it less deadly. The privately run "overdose prevention centers" are equipped and staffed to reverse opioid overdoses.
They are also known as safe injection sites and are a bold and contested response to a tide of overdose deaths nationwide. Supporters see them as humane responses to a national surge in overdose deaths. Critics see them as illegal and defeatist. People who use drugs there say they're a place where someone is looking out to make sure that they don't overdose.
53-year-old Jose Collado, who visited the center, said, “They always worry about you, and they’re always taking care of you.”
Collado's 45-year-old friend Steve Baez said, “They make sure that you don’t die.”
Sam Rivera, the executive director of OnPoint NYC, a nonprofit that runs the centers, said, “It’s a loving environment where people can use safely and stay alive.” Rivera said, “We’re showing up for people who too many people view as disposable.”
As the Associated Press reports, supervised drug consumption sites aren't new in places like Europe, Australia and Canada where they have been around for decades.