Advocates for a site where heroin users can safely inject in Ithaca brought their case before the Tompkins County legislature this week. The only operational supervised injection sites in North America are in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. There are none yet in the U.S.
Ithaca advocates, principally Dr. William Klepack, said injection sites help reduce the number of overdose-related deaths. Since supervised injection is illegal in New York state, however, one of the legislators’ main questions to advocates was what could be the next steps for supervised injection sites in Ithaca?
An answer to that came from the former Tompkins County district attorney. Gwen Wilkinson is now Ithaca’s Drug Policy Coordinator. She said they need community support before launching a SIF, or supervised injection facility. “We could start a SIF next week if we had everything else in place -- which, which we don’t yet, because the buy-in from the community players, is, is important,” she explained.
Once they have more support, Wilkinson thinks Ithaca could get a waiver from the state to start a pilot injection site for research. That is how Vancouver’s supervised injection site began in 2003. The New York State Assembly is also considering a bill to legalize supervised injection sites, though that has stalled in committee.
For now, there are not any local proposals to allow supervised injection sites. Instead, advocates are planning group forums to make the idea more popular.