NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is opening its first overdose prevention sites, which will allow supervised injections in an effort to curb drug overdoses and treat addiction.
The two sites opening as soon as Tuesday previously operated as needle exchanges, but they will now offer supervised injections with clean needles, provide naloxone to reverse overdoses, and offer addiction treatment.
The Overdose Prevention Centers are the first officially recognized by the city and are part of the health department's efforts to fight addiction to drugs like heroin and amphetamine.
"The national overdose epidemic is a five-alarm fire in public health, and we have to tackle this crisis concurrently with our COVID fight," Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. "Giving people a safe, supportive space will save lives and bring people in from the streets, improving life for everyone involved. Overdose prevention centers are a key part of broader harm reduction."
Nationally, over 90,000 people suffering from drug addiction died last year, making it the worst year on record.
Of those 90,000, over 2,000 deaths happened in New York City.
Overdose Prevention Centers are proven to reduce overdose deaths and successfully treat drug addiction, according to studies conducted in Europe and Canada.
Experts say the sites are also proven to improve the overall safety of the communities they're in by reducing the amount of public drug use and decreasing syringe litter.
"Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "I'm proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible."
The two existing sites in Washington Heights and Harlem will merge to form the non-profit OnPoint NYC, which will continue to offer both needle exchange services and supervised injections.
The NYPD said its aware of the program and will not target people "connected to authorized sites."
"Our enforcement efforts remain targeted to those who illegally sell and distribute the illegal drugs that have led to record numbers of overdose deaths in our streets," an NYPD spokesperson said.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a drug addiction, reach out to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports via website, calling the 24/7 HOPE Line at 1-877-8-HOPENY, or text 467369.
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