Friday, Aug 22, 2014 11:42 am est

Recent death emphasizes SIF importance in NYC

Posted on February 4, 2014 | by WSN Editorial Board


This past Sunday, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his West Village apartment with a hypodermic needle in his arm. We cannot hope to attribute the cause of Hoffman’s death to any avoidable event. What we can do is suggest policies that will protect others from the same fate. It is time for New York City to introduce safe-injection facilities. The increasing rate of heroin overdoses demands that necessary and meaningful action be taken.

New York City has always been at the forefront of public health initiatives. Officials have already implemented syringe exchange programs in each of the boroughs, which provide clean needles in exchange for used ones, but these efforts are not enough. More direct assistance, which SIFs provide, would serve to address the problem. SIF clinics assist drug users in the injection of drugs obtained by other means. The facility staff does not actually administer the drug, but rather gives advice on safer injection methods, provides first aid when required and monitors patients to prevent overdoses.

SIFs are not a new concept. Switzerland and the Netherlands were both early adopters of heroin-assisted treatment and included them as part of their national drug policies in the early 2000s. Both countries have seen their heroin usage steadily decrease, with new heroin users in the Netherlands nearly non-existent. SIFs have consistently reduced dangerous injection behaviors and lowered the number of overdoses among users of the clinics. Furthermore, SIFs have regularly acted as pathways for drug users to seek rehab facilities and drug treatment programs.

The federal law obstructing the construction of SIFs, the Controlled Substances Act, was designed to prevent the creation of crack houses, not hinder the creation of facilities that may lower future drug use. Given the proven effectiveness of SIFs, it would be unlikely that any responsible federal government would try to derail a program of this kind.

We will never know if Hoffman’s death could have been prevented. Somebody of his stature probably would have not set foot in a public SIF. Nevertheless, New Yorkers have never been given the option. SIFs have been proven to work. They lower the risk to the drug-user and provide a path to treatment. Safe injection facilities are by no means a panacea, but they do lower the risk substantially. The introduction of SIFs would be a bold but necessary announcement from the mayor’s office.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 4 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.