AMA comes out in support of supervised drug injection sites

Jun 26, 2017

The American Medical Association recently endorsed pilot facilities for supervised injection of drugs. It is a response to the opioid epidemic.

The City of Ithaca last year gained a lot of attention when it proposed a supervised injection facility. A group of drug reform advocates, former users and health care professionals also traveled across the state, including a stop in Buffalo, as part of an effort to bring to New York State facilities where addicts can consume their drug of choice in a safe and secure environment.

The New York State Drug Policy Alliance brought its mobile display of a supervised drug injection site to Buffalo in May.
Credit WBFO's Avery Schneider

These already exist in Canada and eight other countries. People suffering from addiction can go to a site and inject or use their drugs under medical supervision. Advocates say they prevent overdose deaths.

This month, the AMA - the nation's largest organization of doctors - endorsed supervised injection facilities on a pilot basis.

Dr. Patrice Harris heads the AMA's opioid task force. She said it is a way to gather data.

"We've always, number one, looked to the evidence to guide our treatment decision making, of course in partnership with the patient," she said, "and we also know that [new] public health crises sometimes requires new strategies."

But supervised injection is illegal in New York. 

Last week, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, a Democrat, introduced a bill to legalize these sites. It is unlikely to get backing from the GOP-led State Senate.

Republican Fred Akshar of the Binghamton area spoke Thursday on the public radio show Capital Pressroom. Akshar said supervised injection would never get his support.

"If we're going to be investing resources, [going to] be putting our time and energy into something, it's my position that we continue to do that in the arena of prevention, treatment, education and recovery," he said.

Even if there were enough legislators on board, advocates would have to wait. The state legislature just finished its 2017 session.