First NYC safe havens for drug use cleared to open, de Blasio says

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Tuesday that the first supervised drug consumption facilities in the city have been cleared to open.

The Overdose Prevention Center (OPC) services were announced in coordination with the city's health department.

The centers will be in areas based on community health needs and will give medical care, connections to drug treatments and social services to individuals who need it.

The statement says the centers will also reduce public drug use and syringe litter in communities.

"New York City has led the nation's battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn't stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it," de Blasio said.

"Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I'm proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible," he added.

A study by the city's health department showed the centers could save 130 lives a year. In 2020, more than 2,000 people died in New York City from drug overdoses.

Similar drug safe havens already exist in other countries, including Canada and Australia.

"The national overdose epidemic is a five-alarm fire in public health, and we have to tackle this crisis concurrently with our COVID fight," said New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. "Giving people a safe, supportive space will save lives and bring people in from the streets, improving life for everyone involved. Overdose prevention centers are a key part of broader harm reduction."

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