This past Monday, Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick announced his support of a “supervised injection facility” for the city of Ithaca, part of a larger plan called “The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy”, which will be revealed in full detail on Wednesday. The point of this facility will be to provide the area’s heroin users with a “safe” location to practice their lethal habit, providing them with clean needles and medical supervision to protect against blood borne disease and overdose.
Though this “harm reduction” model is being praised by many progressives in the area, the unfortunate truth is that this part of the “Ithaca Plan” is horribly misguided: this facility will for sure be a nice change of pace for addicts, but a failure on the part of the Ithaca/Tompkins County community.
Myrick was quoted as saying that “What you don’t want to do is normalize drug use. You don’t want to romanticize it, and you don’t want to advertise it.” Funny that he should say this, as that is exactly what a facility like this would do. Certainly it would have to be advertised (along with the drug use occurring within), it being the public health initiative that it is. Through exposing this idea of condoned illicit drug use to the public, the Ithaca city government would also be calling it “usual” and “expected” (within the facility), therefore accepting and normalizing it.
However, Myrick’s hypocritical statements aren’t the only proof of this program’s utter foolishness. Ithaca would be the first city in the US to implement a supervised injection facility. Why focus such a program in a small city such as Ithaca, who’s metropolitan area only has a little over 100,000 people, and who’s location is right in the middle of a spread-out, rural county? The mayor even stated that Ithaca’s problem “is no worse than anywhere else”. The problem certainly isn’t nearly as dire as it is in the larger cities with millions of people where these programs have been implemented in the past.
According to statistics from Vancouver, overdose deaths decreased most significantly only within about 1,650 feet of a supervised injection facility. Think about how much good that would do for a county that is 492 square miles and a city and surrounding area that are significantly less densely-populated than Vancouver.
Evidently, there will be no huge effect, no big solution achieved with this facility. I am not saying that the “Ithaca Plan” as a whole will be ineffective, rather only that the injection facility will cause problems. Through advertising and normalizing drug use in a community plagued not with heroin addicts, but with somewhat impressionable college students, the facility may help some addicts while potentially helping to breed some others. Even on the off-chance that something like this would somehow be effective, why attempt to set the precedent in a small city in rural, isolated upstate New York? Why not address the problem in impoverished, heavily populated cities where hundreds, if not thousands die from overdoses every year?
Instead of setting the community up for failure, why don’t we embrace other parts of the “Ithaca Plan”, such as a 24-hour crisis center, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and youth apprenticeship programs. There’s no question that approaches to drug abuse must change, but as an EMT who has literally had a young heroin addict die in front of me, I believe that I am qualified to say that this problem should not be allowed to go on at all. At all. Stop permitting controlled drug abuse, and instead implement accessible and persistent treatment programs.