Mayor DeBlasio’s plan to open a local facility where drug users can inject heroin under the supervision of trained-overdose technicians could collapse, if state legislators approve a new bill introduced by a Bay Ridge state pol.
Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis — whose Staten Island district stretches to include parts of the Ridge — on Feb. 11 introduced the legislation in her chamber, which if passed would create a state-level check on the scheme Hizzoner says will help Kings County addicts.
A state law explicitly prohibiting so-called safe-injection centers would go beyond existing federal statues used to challenge such facilities, ensuring there is no gray area when it comes to debating their legality, Malliotakis said.
“Sadly, we have seen firsthand that Mayor DeBlasio has a complete disregard of our federal laws, so it’s necessary to spell it out in state law that his proposed injection sites are illegal,” she said.
Last year, DeBlasio announced a plan to open four of the centers throughout the city — including one inside an existing needle-exchange facility on the Boerum Hill–Gowanus border — in response to the 1,441 overdose deaths within the five boroughs in 2017, New York City’s “deadliest year on record,” according to a Health Department study.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez — who already largely decriminalized pot possession in Brooklyn, and instituted policies that offer convicted drug users alternatives to incarceration — immediately pledged his support for the proposed facility, vowing to abstain from prosecuting addicts who inject at the site.
Proponents of safe-injection sites in other United Sates cities, however, have faced legal challenges to their plans from the Feds. Earlier this month, Department of Justice officials sued a do-good group over its scheme to open a facility in Philadelphia, claiming the center would violate the Controlled Substances act of 1970, which prohibits the operation of any establishment “for the purpose of unlawfully using a controlled substance,” according to a federal complaint document.
Malliotakis, who unsuccessfully ran against DeBlasio in the 2017 mayoral election, turned to the Feds in her own effort to sabotage his safe-injection site scheme, last year writing to then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to complain about what she called Hizonner’s “heroin-shooting galleries.”
Session’s staff subsequently assured the assemblywoman that federal agents stand ready to crack down on any sanctioned drug use, according to the legislator, who said she worked with Republican state Sen. Fred Akshar, who represents counties upstate, to craft and introduce her bill as an added measure to squash the city’s scheme.
Instead of wasting time and money on sites that promote continued drug use, DeBlasio should invest resources into opening more treatment centers that provide bespoke programming to get addicts off their narcotics of choice, Malliotakis said.
“The DeBlasio administration continues to enable dependency with its push for supervised-injection sites, instead of fighting to end addiction with smaller treatment centers that give individualized attention to people’s addiction,” she said.
Malliotakis’s bill is far from a sure thing, however, now that Democrats hold a majority in the Legislature, and because Gov. Cuomo already signaled support for DeBlasio’s scheme, directing state health officials to find solutions to the intricate legal challenges that opening such facilities poses, according to a spokeswoman for the governor.
“We have been actively working with advocates and the city on their proposal, and how to address the very real threat of federal legal challenges,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays.
The mayor’s press office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.