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OnPoint NYC's bold intervention: Supervised injection sites amidst rising overdose crisis

OnPoint, says they have over 4,000 participants utilizing its services, and have intervened in over 1,000 overdoses. 

Edric Robinson

Dec 1, 2023, 9:30 PM

Updated 199 days ago

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Two years ago, NYC introduced supervised injection sites to tackle the surge in overdose deaths.  The city is currently grappling yet another year of alarming overdose fatalities.
OnPoint NYC, the nonprofit running the two sites - one in East Harlem and the other in Washington Heights - claims these centers have been a success and are helping. 
"We're having an impact, we're making a change," said Sam Rivera, executive director of OnPoint NYC. 
“If you look at the impact we’re having and still having the highest rates of overdose deaths clearly its saying we need more,” Rivera added. 
OnPoint NYC positions itself as the largest harm reduction service in the nation, offering vital training on safer drug use and overdose prevention for those who need it. Data from the NYC Health Department reveals in 2022, there were 3,026 overdose deaths, marking a 12% increase from the previous year. That is the highest number since reporting began in 2000. At OnPoint, they say they have over 4,000 participants utilizing its services, and have intervened in over 1,000 overdoses. 
“We’re close to 100,000 utilizations. That’s 100,000 times in just two neighborhoods  people would have used drugs in the community and instead they used it with us,”said Rivera. 
Rivera says this translates to fewer street paraphernalia and monitored overdoses at provided stations which minimizes trauma.
“This is one of our booths right here. This is where we have injections sniffing and drug consumption,” said Rayce Samuelson, overdose prevention specialist with OnPoint, showing the supervised consumption area.
The overdose prevention center is equipped with about 11 mirrored booths, and provide a controlled environment for drug use.  They also provide clean syringes and have medications on hand to reverse overdoses quickly. Samuelson, says the center has had no overdose deaths.
“When somebody does have an overdose in this room, it’s a much less traumatic way to wake up. There's no police, no ambulance above you. It’s our loving faces saying 'Hey, you did a lil too much today, that’s OK,'” said Samuelson. 
Antoine Balmir, a participant says he’s been saved over four times from overdoses at the center. He says he’s grateful for the supportive environment. “It’s a safe haven also for physical and mental this place helps a lot, I'm negative of everything,” said Balmir. 
Participants like Balmir also have access to OnPoint's wraparound services, including medical and mental health support, showers, and safe sleeping areas. Rivera would like to see expansion with more locations within the city to broaden their impact thereby reducing overdoses.
In response to critics who argue that harm reduction encourages drug use, Rivera acknowledges the skepticism, stating, "It's human nature to question something like what we do. I used to say it was radical; now I know it's righteous. We're doing the right thing; we're loving people," said Rivera 


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