Bill would ban safe injection sites across New York state


Photo courtesy of the New York State Assembly
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, at podium, has introduced a bill with Sen. Fred Akshar, that would prohibit “safe injection sites” – spaces where drug addicts can shoot up with clean needles and have access to the anti-overdose drug Naloxone – anywhere in New York.

On February 5, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island, introduced a new bill that would prohibit supervised injection sites across New York state. The bill is carried in the Senate by Fred Akshar, R-Endwell.

The bill comes as New York City considers creating safe injection sites for heroin users in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, pending state approval. So far, state officials have not provided any indication the plan would be approved, and most recently, federal prosecutors say they intend to use the courts to close injection sites, like they did in Philadelphia earlier this month.

The Malliotakis bill (A.4940) would ban such sites everywhere in New York, including the five boroughs.

In 2017, in response to the opioid crisis, New York City Mayor Mario de Blasio piloted a one-year program to establish four supervised injection sites in New York City boroughs. The proposed facilities would have medical professionals on hand to intercept the overdoses and social workers to provide counseling for drug users. As suggested, the prevention centers would operate within the already existing needle-exchange services.

Malliotakis, who challenged New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017 and is now considering a run for the 11th Congressional District seat, says the safe shooting spaces being proposed in certain neighborhoods are a violation of federal law and will compromise quality of life in those communities.

A similar strategy has been already implemented in the cities of Canada and Europe, but yet to be approved in the United States. Additionally, NYPD Commissioner O’Neil acknowledged that during visits to such facilities in Canada, officials saw heroin usage, drug dealing and other quality of life issues in the surrounding neighborhood.

Last year, Malliotakis wrote the U.S. Attorney General and received assurance from the Department of Justice that their “agents and prosecutors will not stand idly by while misguided, dangerous, and destructive federal criminal violations take place” and that “the Department, as always, will enforce the law where prosecution will serve a substantial federal interest.”

“Sadly, we have seen firsthand that Mayor de Blasio has a complete disregard of our federal laws, so it’s necessary to spell it out in state law that his proposed injection sites are illegal,” Malliotakis said. “Instead of fighting to end addiction with smaller treatment centers that give individualized attention to people’s addiction, the de Blasio administration continues to enable dependency with its push for supervised injection sites and needle dispensaries bins in city parks.

According to the most updated NYC and Alcohol data report, overdose deaths, mainly caused by fentanyl, have maintained a rampant growth for seven consecutive years in New York City. As more New Yorkers die from drug overdoses than suicides, homicides and road crashes combined, NY state continues to face the deadly threat at an epidemic level.

Malliotakis encouraged the de Blasio’s administration to focus more on expanding effective drug education among youths, increasing access to the long-term rehabilitation programs for those in need, and clear the streets from illegal drug distribution.

“It is time for our government to take responsibility and end this epidemic by prohibiting supervised injection sites, educating our youth about the dangers of opioids, offering addicts effective treatment and focusing on getting hardened drug dealers who poison our children off the streets. Let’s be proactive, not reactive,” Malliotakis said.

The Assembly bill and the Senate bill (S.0550) both reside in the Health Committee in their respective houses.