ITHACA, NY – At a press conference on Wednesday, “The Ithaca Plan” — a comprehensive set of recommendations for tackling the city’s drug problem — was officially announced.
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Mayor Svante Myrick opened up the press conference by saying that he wasn’t surprised by the large turnout at the conference. He said that when he talked to the community two years ago about the drug problem, he saw that this was a major concern for many citizens.
He went on to thank the 40-member task force that worked on The Ithaca Plan, and the roughly 400 community members who contributed to the plan in various ways.
Myrick wished to start by highlighting some of the key elements of The Ithaca Plan.
However, he decided to first address the most controversial and polarizing element of The Ithaca Plan: supervised injection facilities.
The mayor said that it was a program that he believed in and would not back down from. He said the service will save lives and give people a chance to get return to a normal life.
“125 people will die in America today from opioid overdose. They will die in the streets, in their homes, in gas station bathrooms,” Myrick said. “So I ask the critics and cynics, what is your nightmare scenario? I’m living mine. We must do better. We must do something different.”
Key recommendations of The Ithaca Plan
Moving past supervised injections, Myrick said that most of the other recommendations in The Ithaca Plan were not nearly controversial and all were based on scientific evidence.
Here are the recommendations that Myrick highlighted:
1 – Office of Drug Policy: The plan recommends the creation of a city Office of Drug Policy that would serve as a hub coordinating multiple aspects of the fight against addiction, including health care, mental health care and law enforcement.
The Office of Drug Policy would work toward combating addiction-related morbidity and responding in a more humane way. It would also work to build a comprehensive education plan to help with drug prevention, as well as work toward reducing the stigma around drug use.
2 – Substance Use Services: The plan calls for an expansion of the 211 directory service. While Myrick noted that the Human Services Coalition already runs such a service, the plan would expand it into a “go-to hotline” that could be called at any time for information about drug services.
“If someone calls at 2 a.m. because their daughter is ready to get clean, we can tell them where to go,” Myrick said.
3 – A 24-hour crisis center: This center would offer on-site detox services as well as full clinical support services to help addicts who come seeking help.
4 – More education: The plan would call for expansion of and additional resources for the Tompkins County Department of Health’s aggressive drug education campaign.
5 – Good Samaritan Law: Another recommendation is to increase education about the Good Samaritan law, which is a law that is already on the books but many people do not know about.
The Good Samaritan law means that if a person or their friend is at risk of overdose, the police can be called without fear of them arresting the addict for drug use or possession.
6 – Vaccinations: The plan calls for the city to work the county health department to provide more vaccination services against diseases that are transmitted by needles, like hepatitis.
7 – Housing First: The Ithaca Plan asserts that the thresholds for housing services are too stringent. Many of them require a person to be clean and sober before they can enter a housing facility, which often results in them staying on the streets.
The plan suggests that getting people housing first will provide better opportunities to get treatment for people and provide them a more stable living situation to pursue treatment.
8 – Medicated Services: The plan calls for a methadone clinic in Ithaca. Currently, the nearest such clinic is in Syracuse, meaning addicts who want to pursue a medicated course of treatment have to make an hour-plus trip daily.
The plan also calls for an increase in office-based suboxone subscribers. Currently, only four health care providers in the city are authorized to prescribe the medication and each can only prescribe to 100 people. Thus only 400 people in all of Tompkins County have access to the medication, leading to a lengthy waiting list.
9 – Overdose Education: The Ithaca Plan suggests that the city should make an effort to improve education about what a person should do if they or someone they know is suffering an overdose.
10 – Supervised Injection Facility: Myrick addressed this issue at the start of the presentation. He once again pointed to Vancouver’s facilities, which have seen over 2 million injections without a single death.
11 – Community and Economic Development: “What we need is an environment where young people never begin to use drugs,” Myrick said.
The plan recommends that people who feel supported, have a stable living environment and have opportunities for bettering their lives, do not turn to drugs. The plan aims to create more opportunities for people to create positive social connections with mentors and peers, as well as creating more career opportunities.
12 – Dedicated Case Management: The Ithaca Plan calls for Tompkins County to establish a dedicated case management system for people who are released from prison or jail. Myrick said that people in this situation currently are most likely to re-offend and commit property crimes or hurt others.
Providing a strong case management program would serve dual purposes of keeping the community safer and helping the formerly incarcerated to get back on their feet and on track for a productive life.
13 – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion: Based on a model used in Seattle, The Ithaca Plan calls for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD.
This program aims to put people in treatment instead of jail. This keeps them from getting a criminal record, losing their job, spending nights in jail and having their pictures printed in the paper. Instead, it gives them an opportunity to get clean and possibly get involved in housing or job placement programs.
In Seattle, the program led to a significant reduction in recidivism. In addition, it motivated police officers to make more stops — because they felt that the solution was actually helping people instead of putting them through the “revolving door” between jail and the street.
“Based in science, not fear”
Myrick mentioned that on Fox News this morning, people were calling for a recall election in Ithaca.
Myrick concluded by saying, “I believe in this program. I’ve read the research. This is based in science, not in fear. Then I watched Fox News this morning and I believed in it even more.”
You can read the full document below:
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