ALBANY, NY – The effort to bring supervised heroin injection facilities to Ithaca appears to have at least one ally in Albany.

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Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said last week she is in the process of drafting legislation that would legalize supervised injection facilities, or SIFs, according to the New York Daily News.

The idea of such facilities has proven to be the most divisive element of “The Ithaca Plan,” a comprehensive plan aimed at tackling the heroin epidemic in the city.

Rosenthal’s legislation does not appear to be directly related to The Ithaca Plan. Mayor Svante Myrick says that he and Rosenthal have never met, although they do have a phone call scheduled later in the week.

“I think she came to the conclusion on her own,” Myrick said. “Or maybe she read the plan?”

The theory behind SIFs is that, first and foremost, they will prevent overdose deaths and the spread of bloodborne diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS from needle sharing.

Opponents argue that the facilities encourage and condone drug use, and may prevent people from “hitting rock bottom,” which some believe is necessary for certain addicts to make a change.

No SIFs exist in the United States, but such facilities have seen some success in Vancouver, British Columbia and numerous cities in Europe and Australia. Similar legislation has been proposed in Maryland and California, according to State of Politics.

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“People need to become more educated and look more deeply into this crisis,” Rosenthal told Gothamist. “It’s the same thing as when the city started giving out free condoms. It didn’t mean people would go out and start having sex, it meant that they were going to have sex with or without. It’s just acknowledging the reality of a behavior, and trying to make it safer.”

As it has in Ithaca, Rosenthal’s idea has already been harshly criticized. Per the Daily News report, State Sen. Martin Golden labeled it “absurd,” while State Sen. Terrence Murphy said, “We do not support supervised drug dens.”

“Our focus needs to be first and foremost on prevention but we are woefully lacking in this state on detoxification and treatment facilities,” State Senator Thomas O’Mara, who represents Ithaca, told the Daily News.

However, some officials have been more receptive. NYS Department of Health Commissioner Mary Bassett told Gothamist that the department had been looking into SIFs, and was interested in seeing Rosenthal’s bill.

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(Featured photo courtesy of Linda Rosenthal’s page on the New York State Assembly website)

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.