NYC Council Eyes Buying Back Used Needles From Drug Addicts

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The New York City Council is considering a proposal to establish a buy-back program in hopes of stemming the spike in overdose deaths and discarded used drug needles on the streets.

Introduction 609, sponsored by East Harlem Councilwoman Diana Ayala, would establish a pilot program that offers up to 20 cents for each needle, syringe, or sharp used at the city’s two legal injection sites, with a cap of $10 per individual per day.

The program would only be open to active drug users who come to an overdose prevention center (OPC), use the clean needle provided there for drug injection, and dispose of it at the site, according to the proposal. New York City currently has two OPCs, one in Washington Heights and the other in East Harlem. Both sites were opened in November 2021 as part of former mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiative to reduce overdoses.

If implemented, the program would last for a year. The city’s public health department at that point would recommend whether or not to continue the program or whether to expand it to cover needles and syringes that have been used somewhere other than an OPC.

“The intent of the bill is to get those folks that are using on our streets and open spaces to bring back the dirty needle (possibly to OPC site) as opposed to discarding them improperly,” Ayala, a Democrat, wrote in a Twitter thread. Others called the proposal “misguided” and an invitation to drug addicts to the city.

Queens Councilwoman Joann Ariola, a Republican, argued that taxpayers money shouldn’t be spent on paying people to use drugs.

“It’s not going to benefit the person who is the drug addict who is using the needles,” Ariola told New York Post. “It could be harmful to the person who is collecting these needles. And who’s paying the [twenty] cents per needle? Where is that money coming from? I think the taxpayers are paying for enough!”

The creation of New York City’s OPCs came after Gov. Kathy Hochul in October 2021 signed a law to decriminalize the possession and sale of hypodermic needles and syringes across the state. As a result, the city’s police officers were directed to stop arresting people who possess, sell, or even share needles that are commonly used by addicts to inject drugs such as heroin.

According to the bill that became law, decriminalizing the possession and sale of needles will encourage more people to come to places like the OPCs, which provide clean needles and naloxone to reverse overdoses.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who represents parts of South Brooklyn and Staten Island, opposed de Blasio’s plan to open what she described as “heroin injection centers.” In November 2021, she sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, calling on the Department of Justice to take action to enforce federal anti-drug law.

“Opening taxpayer-funded heroin shooting galleries is not a proper solution. These centers not only encourage drug use but they will further deteriorate our quality of life,” she said.

Bill Pan

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Bill Pan is a reporter for The Epoch Times.



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