Ithaca, N.Y. – Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick announced today in the Associated Press that he is releasing a report to address issues of drug use and addiction. The report, The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy, marks a radical departure from punitive responses to drugs rooted in law enforcement that characterize much of U.S. drug policy.
The Ithaca Plan instead focuses on public health, economic development, and harm reduction. Based on a year-long process involving a wide array of stakeholders ranging from the Police Chief and treatment providers to people who use drugs and parents, the report recommends expanding access to medication assisted treatments, such as methadone and buprenorphine; increasing youth employment programs; and opening the nation’s first supervised injection facility.
On Wednesday, there will be a live press conference in Ithaca at 9:30 and a national teleconference at noon.
“We know that our past approaches to drug policy have failed, and today Mayor Myrick is showing us how our drug policies can succeed,” said Kassandra Frederqiue, New York state director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “If we really want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and end racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like the ones laid out in The Ithaca Plan.
Mayor Myrick is showing us that, even when the federal and state government fail to act, cities can step up and implement innovate drug policies rooted in science, compassion, and public health. We hope other mayors will follow his lead.”
The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading proponent of drug policy reform, applauded the move by the Mayor. In publishing this report, Ithaca is following the lead of cities in Europe and Canada that had tremendous success in reducing overdose, stemming the spread of infectious diseases, and improving public order by rooting their responses to drugs in a harm reduction philosophy.
Part of the success of these plans internationally comes from their comprehensiveness and their ability to coordinate a response to drugs across multiple sectors, including prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and public safety – an approach replicated by The Ithaca Plan. According to reports, more than 350 Ithaca community members, officials, and stakeholders participated in the process to generate the recommendations, which were also based on a careful review of the scientific literature.
As communities face increasing problems with drug overdose, The Ithaca Plan offers a model for locally-based solutions grounded in evidence that could help prevent drug use and sales, reduce overdose deaths and drug-related illnesses, lessen incarceration, and decrease racial disparities.
For example, supervised injection facilities -- which are controlled health care settings where people can more safely inject drugs under clinical supervision and be linked to medical care, drug treatment, and social services -- have been rigorously studied and found to reduce the spread of infectious disease, overdose deaths, and improperly discarded injection equipment, to increase public order, access to drug treatment and other services, and to save taxpayer money.
Another recommendation to create a youth apprenticeship program could help young people avoid getting involved in drug use and the drug trade. The Plan also recommends creating an Office of Drug Policy so that the city’s response to drugs can be coordinated across city agencies and sectors. A similar proposal is pending before the New York City Council.
By Drug Policy Alliance/Feb.22, 2016
Photos: 1-cajournal; 2-fox