New York City has opened the first supervised injection sites in the United States.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Health Department announced Tuesday that the country's first publicly recognized overdose prevention centers are now operating in the city.
OPCs, also known as supervised consumption sites or facilities, are spaces where those using drugs can seek medical care and social services. NYC officials say the city's OPCs, which were first announced in 2018, "will be co-located with previously established syringe service providers."
A feasibility study conducted by the Health Department determined that up to 130 lives could be saved a year in New York City with the help of OPCs.
"OPC services are proven to prevent overdose deaths, and are in use in jurisdictions around the world," the city said in the statement, noting that no overdose deaths have occurred in any OPC.
"Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis," said de Blasio in the statement. "I'm proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible."
Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx/AP
New York Harm Reduction Educators, which operates the U.S.'s first-ever OPC, celebrated the occasion on Twitter.
"For more than 29 years, we have dedicated our lives to ending #overdose deaths & the criminalization & stigma associated with substance use," NYHRE wrote. "Being the 1st OPC site in the US is an honor & incredible step forward in ending the #overdosecrisis #wearethemedicine #THISSITESAVESLIVES."
In Tuesday's statement, the city suggested that OPCs can benefit surrounding communities by helping to reduce public drug use and syringe litter. "Other places with OPCs have not seen an increase in crime," the city said, "even over many years."
As NYC officials noted, the opening of these OPCs comes at a critical time for the city as overdose deaths continue to climb.
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According to provisional data from the first quarter of 2021, 596 deaths were recorded in NYC between January and March of this year — the largest number of overdose deaths in one quarter since reporting began in 2000. In 2020, opioids were involved in 85% of overdose deaths.
Fentanyl was the most common substance involved in NYC overdose deaths for the fourth straight year in a row, having been linked to 77% of overdose deaths in 2020.