November 28th, 2016
In a city of 8 million people, there has to be one bad egg. (Or two.) Enter New York City Council candidate Bob Capano, who yesterday decided to speak to radio host John Catsimatidis about supervised injection facilities (SIFs).
“It’s basically a taxpayer-funded shooting gallery for heroin junkies to allow them to legally shoot up,” Capano declared.
Setting aside his obnoxious terminology, he’s nearly right: SIFs are places where people who use heroin can do so under medical supervision and without fear of legal reprisals. But in condemning SIFs, he’s taking a position that opposes the health of the city he seeks to serve.
Thanks in part to an ongoing campaign, the City Council announced in September that it would allocate $100,000 to study whether introducing SIFs to New York is a good idea. They could have put that money to more direct use: The benefits of SIFs are already established.
Insite in Vancouver, the only legal example in North America, has been studied dozens of times. The positive outcomes for its community include a reduction in drug-related deaths, a reduction in transmissions of blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, and a reduction in crime.
Similar facilities in Australia and Europe have produced similar results, and you might think that in New York—a city where heroin-related deaths rose by 158 percent between 2010 and 2015—the fact that no overdose death has ever been recorded at an SIF would be relevant.
These benefits are well known to experts, medical professionals and even some US politicians: Capano only has to look upstate to see how Svante Myrick, the inspiring mayor of Ithaca, has advocated for an SIF to help protect his community.
Yet Capano seems to be firmly of the opinion that what we have already been doing for decades—devoting all resources to simply encouraging people not to use drugs, backed by the threat of arrest and prosecution—is working really well.
“Any funds spent on this issue should be focused on breaking the addicts’ dependency on drugs,” he said yesterday, “not taking a step that basically decriminalizes the use of heroin.”
Capano, an adjunct political science professor at John Jay College, has cast himself as an “outsider,” just like another New York politician we can think of. And promisingly for his budding GOP career, the City Council candidate appears to be blessed with his president-elect’s grasp of “facts.”