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City health commissioner backs sites for addicts to do drugs in battle against opioid crisis

The New York Daily News - 3/21/2018

March 20--Mayor de Blasio's health commissioner said she thinks supervised sites for drug addicts to shoot up are an effective way to fight to opioid scourge.

"I think the public health literature is clear," Health Commissioner Mary Bassett told the City Council Tuesday.

The controversial facilities -- which have been opened in other countries, but not in the U.S. -- allow drug users to inject themselves under watchful eyes, making it less likely they will overdose or get HIV from a dirty needle.

A long-awaited Health Department report on the issue is expected next month, as is a decision by de Blasio's office.

Though Bassett is already sold on the effectiveness of the sites, there are legal obstacles to allowing New Yorkers to use illegal drugs at an officially sanctioned site.

"The legal [status] is a source of concern," Bassett said. "I imagine that's what the mayor is considering."

City Councilman Mark Levine, chair of the health committee, said the city should forge ahead anyway.

"We have a scientifically proven method to prevent fatalities," he said. "Let's battle forward -- and if the federal government wants to sue us, we'll take on that fight."

The health commissioner also reiterated her support for slapping a tax on sugary sodas -- though she sees little chance it will be approved in Albany, which is required for the city to act.

"My favorite strategy would be a soda tax," she said, adding that other cities have driven down soda drinking with a tax of a cent or two per ounce. "But as you're aware, that is something our governor has been unwilling to entertain."

A tax could only happen if Gov. Cuomo changed his mind, she said.

"It depends on what the feds do, maybe. Maybe the governor will change his position on taxes as our budget comes under attack from the federal government," Bassett said.

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