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NYC's New Overdose Prevention Sites Save Lives, Concern Neighbors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - New York City leaders continue to celebrate the opening of two overdose prevention sites in Upper Manhattan, saying the services will reduce record high death tolls and curb drug use on city streets. Neighbors are not convinced.

The doors of nondescript storefronts opened with new services Tuesday without warning or consultation with the community. Service provider OnPoint NYC began allowing drug users to inject their products inside under medical supervision.

When CBS2's Jessi Mitchell first spoke with neighbor and Greater Harlem Coalition co-founder Syderia Asberry-Chresfield in early November, she was overwhelmed by the drug abuse she saw happening near her home. That changed on Tuesday.

"It was just refreshing to be able to just walk down the block and not bump into anyone or see what was going on," Asberry-Chresfield said.

Police were on patrol, but Asberry-Chresfield said the moment was fleeting.

"[Wednesday] morning, they weren't there and people were literally selling drugs under the same tent that the police were standing under yesterday," she recounted.

The OnPoint NYC overdose prevention sites are not open 24 hours a day yet, but between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. the first day, staff saved four people who were overdosing.

During the mayor's daily press briefing Wednesday, East Harlem City Councilwoman Diana Ayala showed the syringe deposit box in her office to demonstrate how bad the problem has gotten.

"This is not a prop," Ayala said. "This is my reality. This is the reality that is happening in East Harlem, in the South Bronx, in Staten Island, in Midtown. This is a global crisis, and this is the first step to addressing that."

The mayor has promised to roll out more locations as soon as provider partnerships are established. Meanwhile, Asberry-Chresfield believes the problem on her block will only continue to worsen as the word spreads to other users.

"They're not gonna go any place else. They'll just do it as soon as they get it out on the street," she insisted. "I can say that because I literally saw it done today."

Supporters of these sites emphasize that it takes time to get users the help they need. First, they have to want it. Providing a place some of them want to go will help get them connected.

If you have a tip about the happenings in Harlem, please reach out to CBS2's Jessi Mitchell by clicking here.

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