Mayor Rich Negri says creating a place where people can inject heroin or other drugs under supervision is a “fresh idea” in the efforts to combat the soaring number of deaths from overdoses.

CORNING | Mayor Rich Negri says creating a place where people can inject heroin or other drugs under supervision is a “fresh idea” in the efforts to combat the soaring number of deaths from overdoses.

“We’ve had a problem with drugs for a long time,” Negri said. “Ronald Reagan’s wife came out with ‘just say no’ and that didn’t work. Nothing else worked. We still have a problem, so here’s a different solution.”

Negri's comments came in response to a proposal by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, who advocates opening "injection centers" where heroin users can go to shoot up while under medical supervision. The idea is to cut the number of overdoses in what many authorities say is a nationwide epidemic.

However, the Myrick's plan is highly flawed, local authorities said last week.

“Anything that encourages use and the idea they’re going to set up a safe place for people to use (drugs) just creates a safe place for people to experiment with heroin and other drugs,” said Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker. “If you look at what you’re doing, you are encouraging heroin use because it’s in a safe place.”

Also, heroin use is illegal, and anyone working at an injection center would also be breaking the law. It's a crime for a person to "remain in any place with one or more persons for the purpose of unlawfully using or possessing a controlled substance," according to New York state law. 

“We’re all are concerned with the heroin epidemic, and we’re concerned with the number of overdoses due to heroin use,” said Steuben County Undesheriff Jim Allard. “However, until the use of heroin is legalized by New York state, which will never happen, this is a moot point.”

Corning Lt. and PBA President Jeff Heverly would not condone supporting heroin use, in any manner.

“It scares me as a citizen and a member of the law enforcement community,” Heverly said. “We would promote, or give the appearance of promoting, the use of a controlled substance. I am against that.”

Heroin injection centers would only serve to attract illegal drug users, said a city councilman.

“I think to support a plan like that is absolutely ludicrous,” said Councilman Frank Muccini, R-5. “It would draw all the people who are on heroin to whatever city had a place (to inject heroin or other drugs under supervision).”

Overall, the plan is "horrible", Baker said.

“It’s one of the scariest, shortsighted things I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” Baker said. “Heroin is without question the most addictive and deadly substances that we’ve encountered in the world of narcotics. Right now we can’t pick up a newspaper without hearing about people dying of about a heroin overdose.”

Negri said additional research must be done on the Ithaca mayor’s plan, but he believes it may be leading in the right direction.

“I don’t know if it will work or not,” Negri said. “But it’s trying to stop the problems rather than accepting the fact that we’ve got a (drug) problem that nobody seems to want to address. It may be the start of a good idea.”