NEW YORK – This week, the nonprofit OnPoint NYC, which has theannounced the 500th life saved from an overdose at its facilities.
TBEN’s Jessi Mitchell got a first look at the new medical facility at the East Harlem site, which will provide customers with comprehensive care. Shiny new clinic spaces invite OnPoint participants to come in for services beyond their primary goal of supervised use of illegal products at the injection site next door.
“We know that sometimes people change through environments, through access, through believing that they are being cared for in different ways,” said Sam Rivera, executive director of OnPoint NYC.
A staff physician joined volunteers from Montefiore to bolster the medical team. An on-site pharmacy will also open in the coming days, which will continue to offer vaccines and treat customers with drugs to fight addiction.
OnPoint’s controversial approach to harm reduction does not force participants to stop using drugs.
“When we’re here and we’re constant and we’re reminding people that there’s another way to go, then we’re doing our job,” said Susan Spratt, clinic manager.
OnPoint extended its hours to open at 6 a.m. in August in response to an increase in nighttime overdoses at Marcus Garvey Park after the team was alerted by local law enforcement.
Near the Washington Heights location where:have the support of the city, neighbors like Led Black believe more needs to be done.
“I appreciate that the tunnel looks better,” Black said. “But here, now that I live here in this area, this is the active zone. This is where you need help, and you need active enforcement, like ASAP.”
On his block, off 179th Street near Fort Washington, Black showed a community camp where he said people gather to use drugs, preventing his wife and daughters from walking safely to the bus and train station.
Black also shared a video of a naked man in distress outside his window at night, with the police present but not engaging.
“My question is damage limitation for whom?” asked Black. “Is it just about drug addicts not dying? But what about our community dying?”
In the first nine months of offering supervised injections, more than 1,700 people came to OnPoint for services. Rivera insists the approach works, but change doesn’t happen overnight. He admits it’s hard to keep track of how many people are quitting their habits.
“We know that when they come in and say, ‘man, I’m using so much less, I can see myself,’ we see people appear differently,” Rivera said.
If you see evidence of drug use in your area, OnPoint NYC encourages you to call the cleaning crew hotline, (718) 415-3708. For more information about her services, click here.
NYPD did not respond to our request for comment regarding its association with OnPoint NYC and their interaction with the man in need.
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