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American Medical Association endorses pilot facilities for safe drug injection

Bret Jaspers
WSKG News (file photo)
Advocates provided an example of a safe injection site in Ithaca earlier this year

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

The city of Ithaca gained a lot of attention last year when it proposed a supervised injection facility. 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.

Earlier 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's 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 require new strategies," Harris said.

But supervised injection is illegal in New York.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, a Democrat, introduced a bill last week to legalize these sites.

It's unlikely to get backing from the GOP-led state Senate. Republican Sen. Fred Akshar of the Binghamton area spoke Thursday on the public radio show the 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.