Heroin addicts have been given “safe spaces,” or consumption rooms, which allows them to shoot up safely and have access to emergency medical care, like Narcan, if they overdose. The activities at the Corner Project in Washington Heights, New York have ignited a firestorm of controversy. Some consider the operators to be opioid enablers, while others herald staffers as saviors.
The Corner Project in Washington Heights began as a needle exchange program. The New York heroin use safe space resembles a typical public restroom, but the staff uses technology to monitor the status of the drug addicts after they shoot up with opioids.
Corner Project staffers use an intercom system to check on the heroin addicts every three minutes to make sure the individual is still conscious, CNN reports. The staff at the Washington Heights facility do not refer to the bathroom addicts can go into and inject heroin as either safe spaces or consumption rooms as the operation of such a facility would be illegal.
The Corner Project operators instead refer to the area that addicts go into alone after participating in the Washington Heights needle exchange program as a bathroom. If the heroin users do not respond to the intercom after three minutes, former security guard Hector Mata or other staffers at the New York facility will press a button to unlock the bathroom door and run inside with Narcan.
— CNN (@CNN) October 25, 2017
Hector Mata told the media that he has been helping drug addicts for seven years and has helped those in the midst of an overdose at least 25 times without fail. Liz Evans, the director of the Corner Project, maintains public restrooms are the front lines of the opioid crisis. According to Evans, drug users are dying in public bathrooms on a regular basis
“There’s an acknowledgment that as a syringe exchange provider, we have a moral obligation to make sure that people don’t die in our building,” Evans added.
The Corner Project moved into a building in Washington Heights in 2009, four years after it began as a street-based community outreach program. Not long after they opened the new facility, overdoses began occurring in the bathroom after opioid users garnered clean needles.
In 2016, the New York State Department of Health created recommended guidelines and regulations to address how to best prevent opioid overdoses in places where addicts are most likely to shoot up, including needle exchange facility bathrooms.
Before the intercom and automatic door unlock features were added, staffers would rush to grab keys and run to the bathroom armed with Narcan after they heard a “thud” as the drug addict hit the floor. The Corner Project also offers free HIV testing, free Hepatitis C testing, free condoms with complimentary business delivery, and drug overdose reversal training with a free Narcan kit.
What do you think about the safe spaces for heroin addicts in New York?
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