Friday, Apr 18, 2014 10:30 pm 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 editboard@nyunews.com.

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Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

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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.

 

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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.

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