Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said she would like to see the supervised injection facilities across New York.
The sites would give IV drug users a place to self-administer their drugs with a health care professional nearby. That way, medical staff would be able to quickly administer an antidote if needed.
But some Erie County health officials said even that's no lifesaving guarantee. “Safe heroin injection is an oxymoron,” said Erie County Health Commissioner, Gale Burstein. “There's really no such thing as safe heroin injection.”
Burstein said no one can guarantee a safe heroin injection even with a health care professional standing-by.
Western New Yorkers we spoke to had mixed reactions about the idea.
“I support the idea behind it but necessarily our tax dollars are something more beneficial,” said Fausto Carrillo.
“That's crazy. It doesn't make any sense. That's not actually helping the person who is actually an addict, said Willetta Harman.
“The concept of it I’m open to because I would think there would statistics to point to its benefit,” explained Cathy Ackerson.
Vancouver, Canada for example, has had a supervised injection facility since 2003. And according to the company who runs it, fatal overdoses decreased by 35 percent near the site when it opened. That's compared to only nine percent in the rest of Vancouver.
Operations aren't cheap though. It costs about $3 million a year to run the facility. Here, Burstein said those taxpayer dollars could be better spent on prevention. “We don't have enough money for people who actually want to get care for their addictions into care.”
Burstein said the county doesn't want to enable drug use and she believes these facilities do that.
It's no secret opioid addiction is a problem here. Opioid-related deaths are also on the rise. Latest numbers show 127 fatalities in 2014. That's compared to at least 256 in 2015 and 42 so far this year. That's one more reason why Burstein said the facilities don't support the county's mission.
“Our goals are to prevent addiction, to prevent opioid misuse and get people who want care into care.”
According to Erie County, the Towns of Tonawanda and West Seneca were the zip codes with the most heroin-related deaths in 2014 with 21 and 18, respectively.