Longwood is being eyed as the host neighborhood for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to combat New York’s opioid epidemic in a way that’s never been done yet in America.
The mayor’s office released an extensive report supporting the institution of four supervised injection facilities (SIFs) around New York City, with one being located at St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction off Westchester Avenue.
“The opioid epidemic has killed more people in our city than car crashes and homicides combined,” said de Blasio.
Out of New York’s 1,441 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, the deadly drugs heroin and fentanyl have been especially brutal to the Bronx over the years; just recently there have been large connected seizures within the borough.
“Creating safe injection sites means saving lives and as council member for a district that has been greatly affected by the opioid crisis for decades, I support this initiative,” said Councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr.
“These safe injection sites will not only test drugs and administer life-saving medications, but also provide counseling and support programs that can help people with their addictions,” he added.
While exact details of the SIF plan have not been determined yet, the Longwood site would provide clean needles and other supplies as well as have a medical professional on standby to prevent the user from overdosing.
However, like the mayor’s proposed jail for Mott Haven, some question the location chosen for the SIF site.
Community Board 2 released a statement supporting the Mayor’s initiative, but not the selected location.
“The board is concerned with the proposed location, as there are other areas in the borough where high-density usage takes place,” the statement said.
“The safe injection site should be in close proximity of this high-density area, where services like community outreach, access to Naloxone, and more, already exist,” it added.
The Third Avenue Business Improvement District also expressed skepticism of the proposed facility.
“Locating the Bronx site in Longwood makes no sense. In order to scale these programs and create a genuine city-wide policy, the location of safe injection sites needs to be strategically vetted,” said Michael Brady, executive director of the Third Avenue BID.
Brady recommended that the mayor’s office consider properties on Bergen Avenue south of East 148th Street, available space in or near Lincoln Hospital, or a site on Morris Avenue.
“The epicenter of addiction and overdose is in my district at the HUB and that needs to be equitably addressed,” Brady added.
Just last month, the BID in partnership with Salamanca and others, hosted the first Bronx Opioid Community Summit to create a community-based framework that would address the opioid challenges in the borough.
De Blasio would need authorization from the NYS Department of Health, approval from each local district attorney to help protect clients and operators, and support of the local council member who is responsible for land use in their district, which in this case would be Salamanca.
New York City would be one of the first cities in the U.S. to implement this style treatment, which aims for a 35% reduction in opioid overdoses by 2022.