More New Yorkers died from heroin overdoses than homicide in 2014 and 2015, and in recent weeks a few politicians have spoken up in favor of Supervised-Injection Facilities (SIFs)—clinical centers where heroin users can inject with clean supplies. The controversial centers are currently illegal in the US, but have been established in 66 cities worldwide. The Mayor of Ithaca—a city that saw three heroin overdose deaths in a single week last year—unveiled a harm reduction plan last month that hinges on SIFs. And this week, Manhattan State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal announced that she'll push for a State-funded SIF program.

"People need to become more educated and look more deeply into this crisis," Rosenthal told us on Friday. "It's the same thing as when the city started giving out free condoms. It didn't mean people would go out and start having sex, it meant that they were going to have sex with or without. It's just acknowledging the reality of a behavior, and trying to make it safer."

Indeed, SIFs operate on the assumption that heroin-related deaths are inevitable so long as addicts feel pressure to shoot up out of public view—often in parks and public restrooms—and scramble for access to clean needles. Users also run the risk of contracting Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. At a SIF facility, the staff is trained to respond to an overdose. Information about detox programs is also readily available, although detox isn't mandatory for entry into a SIF.

"Like an alcoholic is always going to find place to drink, heroin addicts are always going to find place to use," Misty Lauer, a heroin user, told Gothamist last fall. "Why not give them a space where they can get positive influences by people in recovery, rather than keeping them on the street, where you know they're going to do what they do regardless?"

Last September we reported that a small group of nonprofits in New York City has already taken measures to combat the rise in heroin overdoses. At VOCAL NY and the CORNER Project, bathrooms have a steel countertop, syringe disposal boxes, and staff members on call. And the CORNER Project is one of several groups that maintains syringe exchange programs, where users can stock up on clean needles. At the City level, the anti-overdose drug Naloxone (aka Narcan) was recently made available at 300 Duane Reade and Walgreens stores without a prescription.

Rosenthal argues that access to Narcan, while crucial, isn't a comprehensive solution. "People overdose, they get Narcan, they stay in the emergency room for another hour and a half, and they're back on the street," she said. "I've spoken to EMTs who see the same people two or three times a week." Rosenthal envisions SIFs with on-site mental health services, where users could get help on a regular basis, not just in the case of an emergency.

Republican Senator Terrence Murphy, who co-chairs the Senate's Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, has already issued a harsh assessment of the plan. "We do not support supervised drug dens," he told the Post. Other politicians have argued that resources are better spent on detox and treatment centers.

But Department of Health Commissioner Mary Bassett was more receptive at a budget oversight hearing on Friday. "We've certainly been looking at SIFs," she said. "We will be interested in looking at [Rosenthal's] bill."