US politician calls for action to save lives in Scotland


A New York state senator who has faced legal action to help introduce supervised drug consumption rooms in the United States is urging Scottish politicians to do everything in their power to save lives.

As the representative of the central and southern Bronx for 11 years, Gustavo Rivera has witnessed the devastation drug-related deaths can cause.

In Part 2 of our series on Overdose Prevention Centers in the United States, the Chairman of the New York Senate Health Committee discusses how he helped advance controversial policies that could be pursued at Holyrood.

In a key message for PSMs, he said policymakers should consider the impact of decriminalization and drug consumption spaces – including examples from other countries like Portugal.

“I hope that policymakers in your country, with the local understanding that people like me will never have, will take to heart that, in the end, policies like this are about saving lives,” we said. Mr. Rivera said.

“If we want people to recover and be healthy, they can’t do it if they’re dead. So whatever we can do to keep people alive, we have to do it.

“And research shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that these centers save lives.”

What is the Scottish government doing?

In Part 1 of our series, we asked what Scottish politicians can learn from their counterparts in New York City, where city mayor Bill de Blasio found a way around federal laws to introduce websites to supervised injection.

The city that never sleeps has been locked in a drug-related death crisis mirroring that of Scotland and Mr Rivera believes the new facilities could have a “huge” impact.

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government is “actively exploring” how to open up safe drinking spaces in Scotland.

A total of 1,339 drug-attributed deaths were recorded across the country last year.

But the UK government – which controls drug laws – has long opposed any changes that would make them work.

“There will be many trials”

In New York, Mr. Rivera and his colleagues faced a similar struggle.

“We know there is going to be a trial, there will be a lot of trials,” he said.

“But we believe very strongly that we have the power to do it.

“There are various legal memos and briefing notes that have been written, as well as analyzes that have been done, to establish that states and localities have the authority to do so.

Gustavo Rivera.

“We have been asking for many years, myself as one of the main leaders in this field, either to do this through legislation or through executive action at the state level.”

The Scottish Parliament is generally expected to continue its own trial of drug consumption sites and Dundee is identified as a possible location.

However, it is not yet clear how the Scottish Government would be able to ensure that operators will not be exposed to prosecution.

Activist Peter Krykant was arrested in October last year for running a supervised ‘repair room’ from a modified van in Glasgow, but the charges were later dropped.

Campaigners urged the Scottish government to continue regardless and challenge the UK government to fight the lawsuit once the full impact on the overdoses has been directly established.

Mr. Rivera is currently pushing two bills through the New York Senate.

One of them creates a limited-time pilot program for overdose prevention centers and the other authorizes them for areas wishing to set up sites.

He believes statewide authorization will be “essential.”

I just want it to happen.

Gustavo Rivera

The current setup relies on the US Department of Justice and local police to continue to turn a blind eye.

It’s unclear what would happen if another president or administration had a darker view of the centers.

For now, Rivera says, “We are still seeking statewide clearance.

“I’m talking to the governor. They are open to the idea but they are still not completely convinced.

“I don’t care whether my invoice is accepted or not, as if it was done administratively, I don’t give as ***. I just want it to happen.

Drug-Related Death Crisis: If New York Can Take Decisive Action, Why Can’t Scotland?



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