Supplies for illegal drug users are seen last year at...

Supplies for illegal drug users are seen last year at an overdose prevention center in Manhattan run by OnPoint NYC. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

The Adams administration aims to more than double the number of facilities in New York City where illegal drugs can be injected under professional supervision, as part of a plan to cut overdose deaths by 15% by 2025.

Currently, two such facilities, called overdose prevention centers, have been open in the city since November 2021: in the Manhattan neighborhoods of East Harlem and Washington Heights.

Mayor Eric Adams’ plan, released Thursday, seeks a total of five citywide by 2025 — to neighborhoods with the highest rates of overdose deaths, such as the South Bronx.

Citywide, there has been a 78% increase in overdose deaths since the pandemic, according to a news release from Adams' office.

At the facilities, drug users are provided clean needles, and naloxone can be administered to reverse drug overdoses. Options for addiction treatment are also offered.

Adams said he hoped to convince opponents of the facilities’ benefits, which the city says includes saving lives.

“It automatically gives people an image that, ‘Oh, this is a bad place.’ I went up and visited the centers, and I saw the resources they’re giving to people,” He said. “When they come in, in a safe space, you can now talk with them about other items and other issues and give them the holistic care.”

Critics say the facilities boost crime, trash and disorder and condone drug use.

The facilities, each operated by a private entity that gets money from the city for other services, are technically illegal under state and federal laws, including the so-called “crack house statute,” which makes it illegal to run, own or rent a place for the use of illegal substances.

The city does not take enforcement action.

Adams’ plan — in a 72-page document called “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City” — anticipates these roadblocks.

“The current regulatory and legal environment presents challenges to expanding OPCs,” according to the document.

In 2019, the Trump Justice Department sued to stop an injection outpost from opening in Philadelphia. Although the Biden administration views so-called harm reduction more favorably, the administration has not endorsed the use of facilities. Such facilities are open in more than 60 jurisdictions worldwide, the city says.

Adams unveiled the Care, Community Action document at City Hall on Thursday. The document, which covers not just combating opioids but mental health generally, has more than a dozen goals, including new telehealth services for high school teens, a suicide prevention program for youth, more access to psychological services for New Yorkers who are seriously mentally ill, and the expansion of an effort to deploy medical personnel instead of police officers when responding to certain emergency calls regarding mental illness.

Anne Williams-Isom, Adams’ deputy for health and human services and a former executive at the nonprofit Harlem Children's Zone, lamented that there aren’t enough Black therapists for youth, recalling her time working with high schoolers.

“When I would get those knuckleheaded 16-year-olds to finally decide after months and months that they wanted to talk to somebody — because whether you’re the victim or the perpetrator of a crime, it affects you,” she said. “And so when we were together, and I finally get them to connect, they would say, ‘Miss Anne, is there a Black therapist that I can talk to? Is there somebody that looks like me?’ And so I would run around in Harlem trying to find a Black man to be able to talk to these young brothers that wanted to find some care.”

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