The Caring Community: Ithaca and the Movement for Supervised Injection Facilities

Syringe exchanges’ controversial start inform conversation about supervised injection facilities


ITHACA, N.Y. — As the national discussion about supervised injection facilities progresses, local leaders are also working to continue the conversation locally.

The Health and Human Services Committee featured the subject Monday, bringing in local health and harm reduction experts to weigh in. Since the idea of opening a facility was introduced locally in 2016, many have raised concerns about the facility attracting more drug users to the area and normalizing drug use. Speakers Monday addressed some of the big questions and compared the fear and discussion around supervised injection facilities now to how syringe exchanges were received in the early 1990s.

Legislator Anna Kelles, committee chair, said having a supervised injection site is just one of many recommendations in The Ithaca Plan to address the opioid crisis, but it has attracted the most attention. Kelles said Tompkins County Legislature is not taking a stance on the issue, but said because there is a bill to make SIFs legal in the New York Assembly, “it’s time to get educated.”

New York is one of several states pushing for supervised injection sites, places where people can inject drugs under medical supervision. Local leaders have visited and pointed to Insite in Vancouver as a successful model. Insite was North America’s first legal supervised injection site. Though there has been a lot of discussion in the U.S. lately, they are not new. Sites have operated for decades in Europe.

There are about 100 facilities in 11 countries, said John Barry, executive director of the Southern Tier AIDS Program.

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