Upstate N.Y. mayor proposes nation's first drug injection centers

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick says injection centers can help prevent drug overdose deaths.

Story highlights

  • Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick proposes the nation's first supervised injection facilities for heroin addicts
  • The facilities would be modeled after similar sites in Canada and Europe
  • The centers would enable drug users to shoot up under clinical supervision

(CNN)Citing the staggering increase in heroin use and overdose deaths, an upstate New York mayor is proposing the nation's first supervised injection facilities modeled after sites in Canada and Europe, places where addicts can safely shoot up heroin under clinical supervision while receiving health care and counseling.

"One-hundred and twenty-five people will die in America today from opioid overdose, will die in the streets or will die in their homes or will die in gas station bathrooms," Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick told reporters Wednesday, citing federal figures on the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.
To back his controversial proposal, Myrick, 28, released a report recommending, among other things, treating heroin addiction by allowing users to inject drugs at supervised facilities. Similar centers have been found to reduce the spread of infectious disease, overdose deaths and improperly discarded syringes.
    Myrick said the report is a blueprint for cities struggling to deal with a rise in heroin addiction and overdose deaths.
    "This is a strategy that sounds as outrageous as the strategy that we came up with to provide sexual education to teenagers, something that was unthinkable in the '70s," said Myrick, whose father was a heroin addict.
    Ithaca, a city of about 30,000 residents 220 miles northwest of New York, would be the first U.S. city to open a supervised injection facility.
    About 100 facilities, in some places known as drug consumption rooms, exist in Europe, Australia and Canada.
    The world's first official supervised injection site opened in Berne, Switzerland, in 1986, and multiple cities in Europe opened centers in the decades after. Today, the majority of injection rooms continue to be found in Europe.
    In Canada, a facility called Insite in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2003 became North America's first legal drug injection center, according to its website.
    Insite operates under a special license but without the support of the Canadian federal government. Addicts shoot up as medics watch. Some patients line up two or three times a day to use one of the 12 injection boot