BUFFALO, .N.Y. (WIVB) – Every morning, one Buffalo mom says no to heroin.
She is a recovering addict and told News 4 she makes a daily decision to stay that way.
So when she heard lawmakers were considering Supervised Injection Sites (SIFs), she was outraged.
“Are you kidding me? Was the first thing I said out loud,” she said.
SIFs allow users to bring in pre-obtained drugs and be monitored by medical professionals as they get high. Users are also safe from being charged by law enforcement with drug possession.
The idea has been proposed by several public health organizations, including The Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL New York and New York Academy of Medicine.
“I totally understand how that’s going to seem pretty controversial to some people, but it’s also very important,” said Matt Curtis, policy director of VOCAL New York.
Curtis noted a successful SIF in Vancouver called Insite. It has supervised 1 million injections so far, none of which have resulted in a fatal overdose.
The surrounding area has also seen a decrease in drug-related deaths, by about a third.
But the recovering addict, who asked News 4 to conceal her identity, said SIFs open a dangerous door for addicts.
“If I had a place to go where it was socially acceptable to be an addict and to shoot up and get high, I probably wouldn’t have stopped because there would be no consequence,” she said.
“A SIF doesn’t operate in isolation where it’s just doing that one thing, it’s connected. Just like existing syringe exchange programs around New York, with all these other services,” Curtis stressed.
He told News 4 users who inject at SIFs are far more likely to seek treatment, because they’re exposed to medical professionals who can point them to the right resources.
“You’re going to have people go in and say, I can do this much in front of medical personnel and I was fine. I didn’t overdose,” the former user told News 4.
“They’re going to go out, they’re going to get that bad batch, they’re gonna overdose,” she said.
She believes dealers will reap the rewards of the facilities, by having one place with endless clientele. Another reason, she said, that she believes SIFs will make the problem worse.
News 4 spoke to the Chief of Narcotics at the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, who also doesn’t think SIFs are a safe way to stop the overdosing epidemic.
SIFs have existed in Europe and Canada for about 30 years, but there has never been one in the U.S.